Physical Exercise as a Diagnostic, Rehabilitation, and Preventive Tool: Influence on Neuroplasticity and Motor Recovery after Stroke

  • Pin-Barre Caroline
  • Laurin Jérôme


Stroke remains a leading cause of adult motor disabilities in the world and accounts for the greatest number of hospitalizations for neurological disease. Stroke treatments/therapies need to promote neuroplasticity to improve motor function. Physical exercise is considered as a major candidate for ultimately promoting neural plasticity and could be used for different purposes in human and animal experiments. First, acute exercise could be used as a diagnostic tool to understand new neural mechanisms underlying stroke physiopathology. Indeed, better knowledge of stroke mechanisms that affect movements is crucial for enhancing treatment/rehabilitation effectiveness. Secondly, it is well established that physical exercise training is advised as an effective rehabilitation tool. Indeed, it reduces inflammatory processes and apoptotic marker expression, promotes brain angiogenesis and expression of some growth factors, and improves the activation of affected muscles during exercise. Nevertheless, exercise training might also aggravate sensorimotor deficits and brain injury depending on the chosen exercise parameters. For the last few years, physical training has been combined with pharmacological treatments to accentuate and/or accelerate beneficial neural and motor effects. Finally, physical exercise might also be considered as a major nonpharmacological preventive strategy that provides neuroprotective effects reducing adverse effects of brain ischemia. Therefore, prestroke regular physical activity may also decrease the motor outcome severity of stroke.