Best Brain Exercises For Stroke Recovery

A stroke can cause long-term damage to the brain, impair movement, and significantly diminish cognitive abilities.

Mobility and strength training to retrain the muscles after a stroke is a huge part of the stroke recovery process. But important as it is to regain physical fitness, patients must also exercise their brain to restore memory, improve mental ability, and boost recovery from stroke.

Melissa Meyers, an occupational therapist at Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute in Philadelphia, says that memory deficits after a stroke largely vary depending on the extent of the damage. Some individuals may forget words, stories, and conversations, lose the ability to communicate verbally, or even fail to recognize familiar faces or locations.

Cognitive exercises for stroke patients are essential to restoring their brainpower. Read on for the most effective exercises that can help patients.

Best Exercises for Post-Stroke Cognitive Therapy

Solving Puzzles

Puzzles are highly effective in improving memory, visual-spatial reasoning, developing IQ, increasing attention to detail, improving mood, and lower stress levels.

Some great brain exercises for memory and stroke include these simple puzzles:


Card Matching

Simple memory games such as card matching will assist with brushing up on recall and scanning abilities. This involves placing a deck of cards face-down. The goal is to find matching pairs while only uncovering two cards at a time.

The game is meant to challenge patients to remember where different cards are placed and match them to create as many pairs as possible.

Visual and Spatial Processing Games

Find-the-difference games are used to develop visual-spatial reasoning and processing. Such games should be included in the cognitive therapy regimen to improve visual identification and spatial understanding.

Crosswords and Brain Teaser Games

Word search, alphabetizing, crosswords, and other similar word puzzles are beneficial brain exercises that can also help improve speech.

Brain teasers such as sudoku and hangman are also practical challenges for improving analytical and quantitative reasoning skills.

Jigsaw Puzzles

Jigsaws are ideal for rebuilding visual and motor skills. The bright colors and various images are also great for general brain stimulation as patients work to solve the puzzle.

Benefits of Solving Puzzles

  • Memory improvement
  • Problem-solving enhancement
  • Improved visual-spatial reasoning
  • IQ development
  • Improved mood and confidence
  • Lowered stress levels
  • Enhanced attention to detail
  • Motor-skill development
  • Improvement in logical and rational thinking


Playing Board Games

Board games are great for rebuilding social interaction skills while exercising the brain and improving cognitive function.

Some fun board games that are also beneficial for post-stroke cognitive development include:


Jenga, or other similar block games are a great way to work on spatial understanding, motor skills, and analytical reasoning. These types of games also help improve strategizing abilities and improve brain function by enhancing mental and physical coordination.

Checkers and Connect Four

Connect Four and checkers can improve attention, polish motor skills, and develop cognitive flexibility and problem-solving abilities.


Games that center on business and money can significantly improve quantitative reasoning, strategizing, and logical rationality. These skills improve brain function and enhance cognitive development after a stroke.


Battleship is a great way to improve motor skills and help with speech practice. It includes simple words such as hit, miss, and sunk that can lead to better communication skills and word retrieval.


This game involves listing words across various categories, which all start with the same letter. It’s a very simple game but a very effective mental exercise to improve word retrieval and language.


This is a fun game for family bonding and socialization. It also helps improve visual discrimination, attention, and decision-making abilities.

Benefits of Playing Board Games

  • Improve math skills and quantitative reasoning
  • Encourage strategizing and cooperation
  • Assist with motor skill development
  • Alleviate stress, boost self-confidence and self-esteem, and help increase motivation
  • Provide a fun opportunity for family bonding while exercising the brain


Arts and Crafts

Getting the creative juices flowing is not just great for stress relief and mental therapy. Arts and crafts are also a fantastic and low-stress way to exercise the brain.

Here are some enriching hobbies that can help patients relax and improve cognition:

Knitting and Crochet

Knitting and crochet are fairly simple and relaxing activities that can improve motor skills without requiring active attention due to muscle memory. There is no need to create complicated projects; just the most basic stitches are great for physical and mental development. But if the exercises lead to practical items, they are a great bonus!

These simple and calming activities can also take the patient’s mind off recovery while still exercising their brain and improving hand-eye coordination.

Writing and Drawing

Drawing and writing can develop hand-eye coordination and further cognitive development. Doodles, scribbles, and even gibberish words can give the brain a much-needed workout.


Painting can alleviate stress and improve motor skills. Patients can also enjoy the satisfaction of creating something beautiful and tangible.

Even just creating abstract splatters of paint or mixing and blending different colors can be valuable additions to post-stroke rehab regimes.

Clay Sculpting and Pottery

Clay is an extremely soothing, comfortable, and fun medium to work with, whether for pottery or sculpting. Again, creating tangible products after a stimulating activity is a great way to encourage productivity and improve focus.

Simply rolling the clay around to form different shapes can already help improve motor skills as patients advance in precision techniques and even use tools to create sculptures.

Benefits of Arts and Crafts

  • Stress relief and mood management
  • Boost confidence and improves motor skills
  • Provide satisfaction and encouragement when a project is completed
  • Develop a new skills
  • Distract from any post-stroke problems that may be causing mental health issues


Conclusion: Why Brain Exercises Are Integral to Post-Stroke Recovery

Strokes can cause temporary or long-term brain damage that will take time and effort to recover from. And for a stroke patient’s overall recovery, cognitive development is just as important as physical and motor skills.

Brain exercises can help in stroke recovery as repetitive stimulation can help rewire the brain and improve any skills or memory loss that has occurred. Doing these simple activities daily will lead to a much quicker recovery.

With these rehab activities for stroke included in a cognitive rehabilitation regime, the rate of improvement may surprise you!