Welcome to our complete collection of exercises for stroke patients, where we will cover every muscle group from head to toe.
Let’s start with our foundation.
Leg Exercises for Stroke Patients
If you are starting with limited mobility, try these seated leg exercises that you can do from any comfortable seated position.
When you’re ready for a challenge, try these leg exercises from Liliana, DPT.
They’re also done from a seated position, but there are options to make each exercise easy or hard depending on your current mobility level.
Bonus: Download our free Stroke Rehab Exercises ebook. (Link will open a pop-up that will not interrupt your reading.)
Core Exercises for Stroke Patients
For something easy, try these seated balance exercises.
Or, if you enjoy visual guidance, see these 5 core exercises with pictures. They’re all guided by our friend Cassie, DPT.
If you have good core strength already, then refer to our advanced balance exercises. Each exercise includes an option to make it more difficult when you’re looking for a challenge.
Arm and Shoulder Exercises for Stroke Patients
For those who have some movement in their arm, you can try some active arm exercises that can give your affected side a good workout.
Then, try these shoulder exercises to reduce pain and boost mobility. Although the focus is on your shoulder, each exercise involves the use of your arm, so you’ll get a little arm workout in, too.
If you have a paralyzed arm, then some passive arm exercises are a great place to start. During these exercises, you assist your affected arm through each movement to prevent contractures and regain movement.
Wrist, Hand, and Finger Exercises for Stroke Patients
For your hands, we have 30+ hand therapy exercises for you to try.
A great place to start is with these 9 hand exercises for stroke patients with pictures. They’re all guided by our friend Barbara, OTA.
And if you’re looking for something to download, check out our therapy putty exercises that includes a free downloadable PDF!
Eye Exercises for Stroke Patients
Your eyes are controlled by muscles, and sometimes those muscles are weakened by stroke.
Luckily, you can regain your vision after stroke by performing eye exercises.
Consistent, diligent eye exercise can help restore partial or total vision.
How to Exercise for the Best Results Possible
As you get started with your exercise regimen, there are 3 critically important things to focus on:
Neuroplasticity is how your brain rewires itself and heals after stroke. By activating neuroplasticity, your brain will relearn how to control your muscles.
The best way to activate neuroplasticity is with repetitive practice. Each time you repeat something, like rehab exercises, your brain gets better and better at this skill.
Follow this formula and you are SET. It works in a chain reaction like this:
- The more you practice a movement, the more you activate neuroplasticity
- The more neuroplasticity you activate, the stronger the connections in your brain become
- The stronger your brain becomes, the stronger YOU become
So when you get started with these exercises, try to aim for a high number of repetitions. That’s how you’ll see results!
3 More Ways to Speed up Movement Improvement After Stroke
High repetition and consistency are the bread and butter of stroke rehabilitation. As long as you’re doing this, you’ll see great – no, incredible – results.
But there are also 3 other little tricks that you can use to speed up your recovery even more. They all help boost neuroplasticity and promote healing in your brain.
So, for our high achievers out there, try adding these to your regimen too:
1. Mental Practice Boosts Motor Recovery
Did you know that mentally rehearsing your rehab exercises can help you activate neuroplasticity, too? Indeed, by simply visualizing yourself practicing movements, you can get physically better at moving!
And studies have shown that physical practice combined with mental practice leads to better results.
So consider spending 5-10 minutes before each of your rehab exercise sessions to quietly sit (or lie down) and visualize yourself going through each movement.
It will help you to seriously speed your recovery along!
2. Sleep Helps Your Brain Retain Your Hard Work
After stroke, you likely had a sharp increase in your desire for sleep. This is perfectly normal. And sleep can help promote recovery.
Your brain uses more energy than any other organ in your body — normally using up 20% of your energy. However, this percentage dramatically increases during stroke recovery while your brain is trying to heal itself.
So, in order to see the best results, you should sleep when you want to sleep – even if it means going back to sleep 90 minutes after you got up.
Sleep helps your brain turn short-term memories about muscle movement into long-term memories in your motor cortex.
In other words, sleep helps your brain remember how to do those movements you’ve been practicing all day.
3. Participate in Formal and Informal Rehabilitation
By combining formal and informal rehabilitation in your recovery, you’ll be on the fast track to recovery in no time.
Formal rehabilitation includes therapy sessions (at the clinic and at home) which involve doing repetitious exercises for a certain length of time.
Informal rehabilitation includes everything else you do in your daily life, like getting dressed and washing the dishes. Although this isn’t considered “exercise” to most people, it most certainly stimulates your brain and encourages movement improvement.
So try your best to use your affected muscles as much as you can during your daily life. For example, try to wash the dishes with both hands as a form of informal therapy.
The more you stimulate your affected muscles, the faster you will recover — with adequate sleep, of course!
Exercise for Better Movement!
And there you have it. You now have a solid stroke exercise regimen.
Be sure to aim for high repetition and be very consistent. This is where the majority of your results will come from.
Also try to include mental practice, sleep, and informal rehabilitation as much as you can.
Do all these things, and you’ll see the best results possible.