Novel Exercise Devices for Stroke Rehabilitation

Stroke is a leading cause of disability worldwide.  Of the five million stroke survivors living in the United States, it is estimated that half of them live with moderate to severe impairment of their arm or hand. 

The REACT Lab is developing, and conducting research with, two wheelchair-based devices: RAE and LARA. Both promote movement therapy for the arm to facilitate the restoration functional movement after stroke.

RAE (the Resonating Arm Exerciser) is a lever that can be attached to the push-rim of any manual wheelchair to convert it into a therapeutic rocking chair.  Elastic bands and an arm support stabilize a person with stroke’s arm around a healthy resting position. Combined with the principle of mechanical resonance, this helps them complete hundreds of reaching movements in a single exercise session, with a larger range of motion than otherwise possible.

LARA (Lever-Actuated Rehabilitation and Ambulation) is a specialized wheelchair that provides arm exercise and mobility at the same time. LARA’s lever-drive system harnesses the remaining movement capability of a person with stroke’s weaker arm so they can independently operate a manual wheelchair, while receiving the same beneficial exercise with that arm as they would with RAE.

What new devices will shape the landscape of stroke rehabilitation? Come bring your ideas and enthusiasm to the REACT Lab and let’s find out!


Smith, B. W., Bueno, D. R., Zondervan, D. K., Montano, L., & Reinkensmeyer, D. J. (2019). Bimanual wheelchair propulsion by people with severe hemiparesis after stroke. Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology.

Sarigul-Klijn, Y., Lobo-Prat, J., Smith, B. W., Thayer, S., Zondervan, D., Chan, V., … Reinkensmeyer, D. J. (2017). There is plenty of room for motor learning at the bottom of the Fugl-Meyer: Acquisition of a novel bimanual wheelchair skill after chronic stroke using an unmasking technology.IEEE International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics (pp. 50–55).

Smith, B. W., Zondervan, D. K., Lord, T. J., Chan, V., & Reinkensmeyer, D. J. (2014). Feasibility of a bimanual, lever-driven wheelchair for people with severe arm impairment after stroke.36th Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society.

Zondervan, D. K., Smith, B. W., & Reinkensmeyer, D. J. (2013). Lever-actuated resonance assistance (LARA): A wheelchair-based method for upper extremity therapy and overground ambulation for people with severe arm impairment.IEEE International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics.