Understanding the factors that influence stroke survivors to begin or resume exercise: a qualitative exploration

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Background: Exercise after stroke has the potential to increase survivors’ physical function and decrease disability. However, despite health professional reporting they recommend exercise to stroke survivors, the majority are physically inactive. Stroke survivors have previously expressed a lack of adequate knowledge and skills to engage in exercise.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to understand why active stroke survivors chose to (re)engage in exercise and how they went about doing so. A secondary aim was to understand if health professionals had a role in facilitating exercise engagement.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with stroke survivors who regularly engaged with exercise. Seven people aged between 60 and 71 years participated in the study. Time since stroke varied from 1 to 13 years. A reflexive thematic analysis approach was used to analyze interviews.

Results: Exercise was spoken about in a positive light. For some, exercise had always been important, for others it became important after their stroke. The themes of Changing Support Over Time, Old and New Identity and Proactively Impacting the Future were developed. The participants felt that health professionals often facilitated engagement in exercise, although the type of support that was most valued differed at different points in the post-stroke journey.

Conclusions: Authoritative support from health professionals and family members helped participants to engage in exercise in the early stages after stroke. Collaboration and being part of a team was appreciated for ongoing exercise engagement. Exercise provided hope as participants developed their identity after stroke.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTopics in Stroke Rehabilitation
Early online date30 Jan 2024
Publication statusEarly online - 30 Jan 2024


  • stroke
  • exercise
  • secondary prevention
  • lifestyle
  • reflexive thematic analysis

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