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Exercise for Stroke Patients with Paralysis: How to Get Started

physiotherapist doing exercises for stroke patients with paralysis on therapy table

Exercise for stroke patients is the foundation of the healing and recovery process, whether the arm can move or requires assistance to move.

You’re about to learn the difference between active and passive exercise and why it helps paralysis recovery after stroke. Then, you’ll discover some examples of exercises to do.

If you feel unsure about your chances of recovery from post-stroke paralysis, these exercises will empower you to actively do something for your recovery as well as taking charge of your body.

Active vs Passive Rehab Exercise

Active rehab exercise involves doing a movement on your own.

Passive exercise involves assisting your affected limbs through a movement. This is where stroke patients with paralysis should start.

Passive exercise helps with paralysis recovery because it involves using your non-affected side to move your paralyzed muscles; and any type of movement sends signals to the brain.

Sometimes passive exercise will require the help of a caregiver, therapist, or family member to move the affected arm or leg though pain-free range of motion.

Passive Exercise Helps Post-Stroke Paralysis

Passive rehab exercise helps paralysis recovery because it activates neuroplasticity, the mechanism that your brain uses to rewire itself after injury.

Although passive exercise may not feel like you’re “doing it yourself,” the stimulation of sensation and movement activates neuroplasticity and sends signals to the brain.

When stroke damages part of your brain, neuroplasticity allows other parts of the brain to create a new pathway. Neuroplasticity is how you regain movement after stroke.

You can activate neuroplasticity through repetition and constant awareness of your affected side. You send signals to the brain every time you look at your arm, touch it, clasp your hands together, or move your arm.

If you want to regain movement after post-stroke paralysis, then you need to practice passive stroke exercises repetitively on a daily basis.

In the beginning, start with passive exercise. As you slowly regain small amounts of movement, you can gradually progress to active exercises.

Progress can be very slow. However, once patients see twitches or tiny movements start to come back, it will motivate them to continue with their passive exercise.

For example, one stroke survivor started to see twitches in his paralyzed arm after three weeks of exercising with FitMi home therapy. This proves the power of daily practice.

Exercise for Stroke Patients with Paralysis

Passive exercises can be adapted from any active exercises by assisting your affected muscles through the movements.

Here’s another exercise for stroke patients with paralysis. It’s called “Punching Movement” and it targets the entire arm:

starting position for arm exercise for stroke patients with paralysis
ending position for arm exercise for stroke patients with paralysis

To perform this exercise, slide your arm across the table to ‘punch’ the water bottle, and then pull your arm back, using your other arm to assist with the movement. It can also become an active exercise by initiating the whole movement with your affected arm.

These exercises help restore movement after post stroke paralysis by reconnecting your mind to your muscles.

Mental practice involves imagining (or visualizing) yourself doing the movements you want to get better at. This helps activate neuroplasticity just as physical practice does.

Stroke patients who struggle with paralysis can benefit from combining mental practice with passive exercises since the mind and body are connected and both require healing.

For example, if you want to regain movement in your arm, spend time visualizing yourself doing the Punching Movement above. Then, after your visualization, practice the movement in real life.

Combining mental practice with physical practice leads to even better results.

Paralysis Recovery After Stroke

Exercise is the essence of paralysis recovery after stroke. Practicing passive rehab exercises on a daily basis helps provide the brain with the stimulation it needs to heal.

The more consistent you are with daily exercise, the better your chances of recovery will be. It’s important to be patient with your results, and celebrate small signs of recovery.

For instance, if you begin to see twitches in your affected arm or hand, that’s a sign that movement is returning. Keep up the hard work, and you will persevere on the road to recovery.

Keep it Going: Get a Free Rehab Exercise Ebook (25 page PDF)

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Get Inspired with This Stroke Survivor Story

Mom gets better every day!

“When my 84-year-old Mom had a stoke on May 2, the right side of her body was rendered useless. In the past six months, she has been blessed with a supportive medical team, therapy team, and family team that has worked together to gain remarkable results.

While she still struggles with her right side, she can walk (with assistance) and is beginning to get her right arm and hand more functional. We invested in the FitMi + MusicGlove + Tablet bundle for her at the beginning of August.

She lights up when we bring it out and enjoys using it for about 20 to 30 minutes at a time. While she still doesn’t have enough strength to perform some of the exercises, she rocks the ones she can do! Thanks for creating such powerful tools to help those of us caring for stroke patients. What you do really matters!”

-David H.

FitMi is a neurorehab device that you can use from the comfort of home. It works by motivating you to accomplish high repetition of therapeutic exercises.

As you work through the program, you’ll unlock more difficult exercises when you’re ready. It’s like having a virtual therapist available anytime you need it.

See how quickly Sudhir was able to notice improvements:

Saw results within a few days

“I bought FitMi about a month and a half ago. Quite impressed with the range of exercises for hand, arm, leg and foot. I suffered a stroke about 2 years ago which paralyzed my right side. I do walk now with a cane or walker, but my right hand curls up and my right arm is also weak. Within a few days of trying it out, I could note a distinct improvement in stamina before tiring. So, I am looking forward to continued improvement.”


Not only is FitMi approved by survivors, but it’s also approved by therapists, too. FitMi is used in some of the top clinics in the world, including the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab, the #1 ranked rehab hospital in America. Plus, two PTs on YouTube with over 3 million subscribers (you may know them as Bob & Brad) gave FitMi the thumbs up, too.

To learn more about this motion-sensing, game-changing recovery tool, click the button below: