How can I strengthen my legs after a stroke? We commonly hear this question from patients that rely on our non-emergency medical transportation services. Luckily, there are a variety of lower limb exercises for stroke patients that you can do in the comfort of your home.
6 Lower Limb Exercises That’ll Help You Regain Mobility After a Stroke
#1. Sit & Stand
It is very common for patients to lose their balance and coordination after having a stroke. Don’t lose hope! You can regain your balance over time. One of the simplest exercises you can do to help improve your balance is to practice sitting and standing up. Always hold onto a table or other stable surface as you practice so that you have a way to help hoist yourself up, and a way to brace yourself if you feel wobbly.
#2. Lateral Leg Swings
Stand with one hand braced against a table or other sturdy surface for support. Then, while standing straight up, transfer your weight to one side of your body. Swing the opposite leg out to the side and hold in place for 10 seconds. Think about tightening up your core and using your entire body to balance yourself.
When you reach 10 seconds, or don’t think you can hold it any longer, release the leg back down onto the floor. Repeat this exercise a few times, if you have the strength to do so, and then switch to the other leg. Work on increasing the time you do this for each time.
#3. Knee Raises
Once you feel comfortable with the above exercise, it’s time to advance to assisted knee raises. Make sure you are holding onto a stable surface for this exercise as well. Also, make sure you are standing up tall with your back straight. Move your weight to one leg and then slowly, when ready, raise your leg up in front of you, maintaining a bend in your knee. Hold your knee up for 10 seconds before lowering it back down. Repeat 1-2x and then switch legs.
#4. Advanced Leg Swings
When you feel comfortable doing all of the above exercises, you can advance to assisted reverse leg swings. This exercise for stroke patients includes standing on one leg again, so carefully shift your weight to one side in preparation. From there, swing the opposite leg back behind you, maintaining a straight leg. Hold it out behind you for as long as possible, shooting for 10 seconds. Be careful when lowering the leg back down. Repeat and then switch sides.
#5. Bridge Your Legs
It is very common for the hips and core area to become weak, making a bridge with your body can help strengthen these areas for better balance and overall coordination. Lie down flat with a pillow or rolled towel beneath your knees. Slowly lift your legs up so that they are level with the pillow – creating a straight line from your upper thighs to the soles of your feet. You can use the pillow for leverage, pushing your knee into it for support.
#6. Wall Sits
Wall sits can be challenging at first, but they are great for so many parts of your body during recovery, and just in general. Start by leaning against a flat wall, with your feet slightly in front of you. Then, slowly sink down and bend your knees as if you are sitting in an imaginary chair, using the wall for support. If you can, hold this position for around 10 seconds before coming back up.
You can do this same exercise using a large exercise ball between your back and the wall. This feels more comfortable to some people but may add an extra layer of challenge and balance.