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Understanding Active vs Passive Exercises to Customize Rehabilitation to Your Ability Level

rehabilitation active vs passive exercises

Knowing the difference between active vs passive exercises can help you understand what your rehabilitation process will encompass.

In this article, you’ll learn what active and passive exercises are, who should use them, and how they can benefit your rehabilitation program.

What Are Passive Exercises?

passive exercises

Passive exercises are also known as passive range of motion (ROM) exercises; and your range of motion includes how far you can move your joints in different directions. These exercises are considered passive because you don’t exert any effort. Instead, someone helps you move your muscles and joints through their full range of motion for you.

Who Can Benefit from Passive Exercises?

passive exercises for paralysis recovery

Passive range of motion exercises are great for patients with hemiplegia, paralysis on one side of the body.

With enough massed practice (or high repetition) of passive exercise, you can treat hemiplegia after stroke by rewiring the brain through neuroplasticity.

Passive exercises can also be used to treat spasticity, the condition of muscle stiffness after brain injury like stroke.

Patients who don’t suffer from hemiplegia can still benefit from range of motion exercises, but it’s better to do them yourself through active exercises.

What Are Active Exercises?

Active exercises involve your physical effort exerted into muscular activity.

These exercises can include active range of motion, like self-stretching, or general stroke rehabilitation exercises where you move your muscles through therapeutic movements.

As long as you’re doing the exercises yourself, it’s active exercise.

During stroke recovery, active rehab exercises help strengthen the neural pathways in your brain that enable you to perform the movement.

So the more you practice, the better you’ll get.

Bonus: Download our free Stroke Rehab Exercises ebook. (Link will open a pop-up that will not interrupt your reading.)

Who Can Benefit from Active Exercises?

active vs passive exercises

Patients who are looking to recover movement after stroke or other injury can benefit from active exercise.

In fact, stroke recovery exercises are the only way to regain lost movement after stroke because you need to retrain your brain how to communicate with your muscles.

Now that you know the difference between active and passive exercises, do you feel like your rehabilitation regimen is properly adapted to your ability level?

If yes, then great! If not, then talk with your therapist to see how you can adjust your rehab exercise program.

Exercises to Get You Started

In the meantime, here are some free exercise guides from our blog to get you started.

Passive Exercise Guides:

Active Exercise Guides:


More Ways to Recover with Flint Rehab:

Download Free Stroke Rehab Exercises


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More Ways to Recover with Flint Rehab:

Step 1: Download Free Rehab Exercises

stroke exercise ebook

Step 2: Discover Award-Winning Neurorehab Tools

Step 3: See What Other Survivors Are Saying