5 Best Brain Exercises for Stroke Recovery

Brain exercises for stroke recovery

We have gathered a list of the top 5 brain exercises for stroke recovery. The goal of each exercise is to help patients recover after the stroke. Exercising their cognitive abilities, improve mental clarity, and speed up the process of neuroplasticity.

Our brain is constantly learning new things that happen in the environment around us. Stroke causes permanent damage to the brain. Which results in loss of the ability to control a particular function. Those functions are usually physical movement, cognitive abilities, and emotion control. 

For example, any injury to Broca’s area of the brain results in a condition called non-fluent aphasia. Where the stroke patient is unable to speak.

But we have to highlight that there are many other physical, cognitive, and mental challenges that a stroke patient experiences. Today our focus is brain exercises for stroke recovery.

All of the cognitive practices and exercises below can be done from the comfort of your own home.

1. Cognitive Therapy Apps

Looking for stroke recovery therapies can be intimidating. Especially in a technology-driven world that offers many options nowadays. However, if you’ve wanted to find a perfect match, but have been nervous about doing so in person. The remote options available truly rival the more traditional, IRL stroke therapy. Many of these options are accessible via intuitive apps. Apps that are designed to streamline your stroke recovery journey. While taking most of the guesswork out of finding the expert attention you’ve been seeking. 

Today we present you the Motus Health.  Cognitive therapy app specifically designed for stroke survivors and their caregivers. 

After the stroke, it is common to experience a condition called aphasia. Which affects the patient’s ability to understand what people are saying, find the right words, or read and write.

The brain exercises for stroke recovery in this app were designed by Speech-Language Pathologists. And tested on stroke patients. The personalized brain exercise program that targets different key areas. Such as memory, attention, problem-solving, math, language, reading, writing, and many other skills.

2. Solving Puzzles

Second, on the list of brain exercises for stroke recovery is puzzle solving.

Some of the benefits we would like to highlight are :

Memory improvement

Puzzle-solving helps reinforce existing connections between our brain cells and enhances the process of neuroplasticity. These tasks improve mental speed and thought process. Puzzle-solving is extremely good for the improvement of short-term memory. Stroke patients’ short-term memory helps them remember shapes, colors while visualizing the bigger picture. In order to figure out which pieces will fit together.

Better Problem-Solving Skills

The ability to solve problems and do critical thinking is one of the main goals for stroke recovery. Puzzles help stroke victims develop all of those important skills. Puzzles require the patients to take different approaches for different stages. And encourage them to try and solve a problem since there’s a lot of tries and errors involved.  Stroke patients also learn the value of formulating theories while testing different hypotheses. With a goal of changing their perspective when something doesn’t work out according to their plan. All these skills can easily be transferred to patient’s daily life to make them more innovative and adaptable human beings.

Improved Visual-Spatial Reasoning

While solving a puzzle, the patients have to look at different pieces and shapes. While figuring out where they fit within the larger picture. Doing this regularly helps stroke patients improve their visual-spatial reasoning.

Better visual-spatial skills help with a number of everyday tasks, and those include:

Car driving (parking, switching lanes…)

Figuring out how many items can fit in boxes, suitcases, or the trunks of our cars while    packing

Using a map, and recognizing the next steps

Visual-spatial ability is also highly  important for people who work in fields of :

Architecture 

Engineering

Chemistry

Art

Surgery

Development of IQ

Puzzle-solving provides improvements to the patient’s memory and overall reasoning. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of the other benefits of puzzles is that they help raise our intelligence quotient. The research paper from the University of Michigan found out that adults could boost their IQ by 4 points after spending 25 minutes every day solving puzzle games.

Mood improvement

Another one of the amazing benefits of puzzle-solving is that they increase the patient’s production of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood swings and feelings of optimism. Of all other things, it also affects memory, concentration, and motivation levels. Dopamine should release every time the patients successfully solve a puzzle. Or even just get one piece of the puzzle in the right place. This encourages them to continue working on solving them and challenging themselves.

Lowering the Stress Levels.

Patients’ brains also go from a “Beta” state to an “Alpha” state when they are solving puzzles. The Alpha state represents the state we’re in when we’re dreaming.

This shift between the states comes with many benefits, such as:

  1. Ability to make deeper connections
  2. Mindset improvement
  3. Relieving the stress
  4. Mood improvements
  5. Increasement of self-confidence

Increase of Attention to Detail

When the patients are trying to solve puzzles attention to detail is crucial. 

Puzzles train their eyes to pick out slight differences in color or shape that will help them put everything together. 

An ability to pick up on small details helps in every aspect of patients’ daily lives. Especially during the stroke recovery stages. When the stroke victims are more detailed oriented and precise, the quality of their lives improves.

Increase of productivity

When patients are happier and less stressed out, it’s easier for them to concentrate. When their concentration improves, the patient’s productivity naturally skyrockets.

If they’re struggling to stay on task during the recovery process, consider taking them on a short break to solve a puzzle and reset their brain activity.

 Many rehabilitation centers are actually starting to include puzzles in their therapy plans. These puzzles let patients take their minds off their current state. For a few minutes and come back refreshed and ready to improve their health state!

Better Collaboration

If you’re looking for another reason to incorporate puzzles into the patient’s recovery plan. Tell your doctor that they’ve been proven to build collaboration between the patients and their families.  Researchers at Yale University found that giving patients the opportunity to work together on solving puzzles allowed them to improve relationships and their abilities to cooperate to finish a task.

3. Board Games

Third, on the list of brain exercises for stroke recovery is playing board games.

Playing board games is entertaining for stroke patients. But that is only one benefit of playing board games. There has been quite a spike in the popularity of board games recently. And for many patients, playing board games connects them with their childhood past. Board games bring a lot of benefits to stroke patients. So we are going to try to highlight the most significant ones.

Playing board games as a family brings people closer, improves the quality of relationships, and improves overall communication. 

Board games are usually meant to be for two or more players. The main goal of board game playing is cooperation. It requires the players to engage in teamwork. And we think that it’s the perfect way to spend time in nice company and strengthen bonds with the stroke patient.

They increase brain function

Playing board games is an exercise for the patient’s brain. Playing stimulates brain areas that are responsible for memory formation and complex thought processes. 

While playing, the stroke patients are practicing essential cognitive skills. Such as decision making, higher-level strategic thinking, and problem-solving.

Playing board games teaches stroke victims how to set goals and be patient

Winning a board game takes strategy and patience. In a happy environment, these things are learned in a stress-free and fun way.

Board games are great for reducing stress and laughter

The main side effect of playing a board game is laughter. Laughter is one of the vital ingredients for an enjoyable learning experience. And a stimulant for creativity. Laughing and having a good time, in general, helps to decrease daily stress for the patients.

Playing board games generates more happiness

Playing board games triggers the release of endorphins. Also known as the body’s natural “feel-good” chemicals. “Happy hormones” have the power to improve mental functions. While leaving the patient feeling cheerful, compassionate, and ultimately content.

Playing board games enhances creativity and self-confidence

Playing board games is a perfect opportunity to connect and open up with the patient. It also helps them to show a creative side of their personality in non-intrusive ways. Which can be beneficial for stroke victims. Board games help them to develop and strengthen their senses of individuality and creativity. This leads to the patient’s greater self-esteem and a feeling of being included and noticed by his family and friends.

You can play board games anywhere and at any time

There are no restrictions, and of course no pressure! It’s one of the greatest things that you can play them anywhere and anytime. The possibilities are surely endless! The patient may feel excited, adventurous, courageous, or, perhaps, even lonely and sad. But patient learning to control his emotions is the main goal of this exercise. There’s always a chance to play again and connect with your loved one.

4. Music Listening

Fourth, on the list of brain exercises for stroke recovery is music therapy. For stroke patients, music therapy can do amazing things. It can improve mood, decrease pain and anxiety, and facilitate opportunities for emotional expression. Various research suggests that music can benefit everyone’s physical and mental health in numerous ways.

Music therapy is used worldwide by numerous hospitals, clinics, and rehabilitation centers. With a goal to enhance conventional treatment for a variety of illnesses. Such as anxiety, depression, and stress. Even for the pain management and enhancement of cognitive abilities of stroke patients.

It’s good for the patients heart

Research papers have shown that blood flows more easily when music is playing. It can also reduce heart rate, decrease stress levels,  lower blood pressure and increase endorphin and serotonin levels in the blood.

It elevates the patient’s mood

Music boosts the brain’s production of the dopamine hormone. Increased dopamine production helps relieve the patient’s feelings of anxiety and depression. Music is processed directly by the part of the brain in charge of mood and emotions.

It reduces the stroke patient’s stress

Researchers recognized that listening to music can relieve stress by producing biochemical stress reducers in the brain. It relieves the patient’s symptoms of post-stroke depression. When they are feeling down, music can help pick them up – much like exercise.

It stimulates the patient’s memories

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia but music therapy has been shown to relieve most of its symptoms. Music therapy can relax an agitated stroke patient. While improving their mood and communication with others.

It manages the victim’s pain

By reducing stress levels and providing strong competing stimulants for the pain signals that enter the brain. Music therapy can assist in pain management for stroke patients.

It eases the intensity of pain

Music can meaningfully reduce the perceived intensity of pain. Especially in the fields of geriatric care, intensive care, or palliative medicine.

It helps stroke patients to eat

Playing soft music in the background while dimming the lights during a meal can help patients slow down while eating. While ultimately consuming less food in one sitting.

It increases endurance for physical therapy

Listening to workout tracks can boost physical performance and increase endurance during a tough therapy session.

How do you use music to improve your well-being or the well-being of a loved one?

5. Memory games

And last, on the list of brain exercises for stroke recovery are memory games. Improving brain function using games is a strategy that is used even on kids. Allocating different shapes, piling up the blocks, and recognizing various colors are just some of the tasks. That promotes cognitive development and allows people to live healthy lives.

However, the ability to grasp concepts, store information, and perform simple tasks is harder for stroke victims. The same games that prove useful for children. They become valuable once more when the challenge is to keep the patient’s memory healthy.

Even after a stroke, the patient’s brain works like a muscle. To keep it continually stimulated it must be worked out regularly, regardless of a patient’s age. Physical obstacles of a stroke patient make the brain muscle become weaker and weaker. The key to improving brain function lies in exercising.

The main benefit is that they are simple and mighty weapons to combat this problem. As they stimulate the patient’s ability to think, remember and store information. 

We gathered a list of games designed to train stroke patients’ memory

Spot the difference

These games are very well known, especially among children, but are regarded as one of the most effective to stimulate the patient’s brains. They train their ability to analyze things by looking at two seemingly identical images. While looking for differences in the small details.

Crossword puzzles

Crossword puzzles are an old favorite amongst all ages. Most stroke patients don’t even realize that this hobby is better for their memory than they might think. Crossword puzzles are an excellent way to stimulate their brain by looking for unknown words. This stimulant is food for the brain. That results in the brain craving more and more of it. In their traditional form, crossword puzzles are very easy to find – in magazines, newspapers, and on the Internet.

Card games and Dominoes

Card games and Dominoes require the patient to think of a winning strategy. This promotes their ability to concentrate, think and memorize. Apart from all of these benefits, memory games also promote social interaction as they are multiplayer games.

Memory games

This game can be played alone but it is much more fun to play with others. The goal is to find pairs of pictures that are distributed across the table that always stay in the same place. If they want to win the game, the patients have to store information. Furthermore, the goal is to promote a healthy sense of competition.

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