I was giving a talk over the weekend to a group of stroke survivors when a woman in the audience reminded me to talk about “cross-brain exercises.” She had used these types of exercises to help her own post-stroke recovery.
There are lots of websites, You Tube videos, and books about exercises that encourage the two halves of your brain to communicate with each other. This is especially important when one half has been injured! Historically, these exercises have been used for children to aid in neuromuscular development, but they are great for any brain ~ young, old, or injured.
Just a few ideas:
1. Reach for bean bags, balls, stuffed animals, or other objects across midline, then throw them at a target. You can use your sound or affected hand to do this exercise. You can also use your feet to kick rather than throw across midline.
2. Draw large Figure Eights (the infinity sign or an 8 turned on its side) on paper or in the air with a finger. While drawing the Figure Eight follow the path closely with your eyes, but do not allow your head to move. Then try it again, keeping your eyes quiet while allowing your head to move as you follow the Figure Eight.
3. Strength and coordination training of the sound hand or leg has been shown to be beneficial for affected / weak side. Practice lifting a weight with one hand and then placing it on the opposite side of the body without switching hands. Or lift a weight on your ankle and cross your leg over to the other side.
4. Touch the opposite elbow and to knee. You can begin by touching your elbow the the strong side to the knee of your weak side, and then vice versa.
5. Cross one foot over while sitting, then alternate. To make this more difficult, cross one foot over the other while standing against the wall, or if you are doing really well over the other while walking sideways.
6. Windmills-Stand with feet spread apart and arms extended out to the sides. Bend over at waist and tap right hand to left foot or knee. Stand back up and then bend and tap left hand to right foot or knee.
Those are a few ideas. You can also do cognitive exercises such as:
- Working puzzles. Start with a 32 piece puzzle and work your way up to a 500 piece puzzle as you get better at it.
- Work on “hidden word puzzles”
- Play card games
The basic idea is to use your brain daily. If movement is limited, do the best you can to cross body, cross brain. Be creative!!