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March 1, 2013 / Mark Kerrigan

Five Easy Ways to Improve Coordination

speedstackLast week, a brain injury (BI) survivor asked me to write about ways to improve coordination and balance. I covered the balance aspect earlier here, but the coordination required a bit more thought. (I’ve been called a klutz by a former manager–Thanks, Michele!) Dexterous means skillful or adroit in the use of hands or body, from the Latin, dexter, meaning right-handed and -ous meaning skillful.

One way to improve your dexterity is to pick up small items. You can either pick them up one at a time or fitting as many into your hand at once before putting them back into the container. Either way is good. To add another element, you can time yourself and then try to improve each go-around. I remember in OT having to pick up plastic pegs. You could use golf tees or pushpins, but watch out for the sharp end. Ouch! When you get a drink or candy from a vending machine, use your non-dominant hand to insert the coins–and the smaller the better, both in value and in size.

Another way to increase your dexterity is to touch your fingers to your thumb one at a time. This–I was told–was one field-sobriety test police gave to determine if someone was under the influence. When I was 16, fully prepared and expecting to get pulled over for driving under the influence after I started drinking, I practiced this exercise throughout the day while at school. Thank goodness I never had to test my theory that if I were really good at it sober, I would be descent while intoxicated.

longhandThe third way to improve manual dexterity and motor coordination in general is to stack cups. They actually make stacking cups for this purpose, and I’ve provided the link here. First, stack as many cups as you can without knocking them over, and then stack all the cups, and then try to do it faster. I’m sure there are instructions which come with them, but you may have to tweak them just a bit depending on your ability level. I think they used to do this on “Minute to Win It.” And if you don’t want to spend $10 buying the kit, you can also use solo cups, but they may not be heavy enough for this activity.

Way number four is to roll sheets of paper into balls the size of spit wads or peas using each individual finger. A doctor once told me about a professional football player–a receiver, I believe–who would took the entire Sunday paper, just to give him a better chance of catching balls! That’s dedication, but if I had $1,000,000+ riding on whether I caught the ball, I might do it too.

Another way to improve dexterity is to write longhand. This activity forces your brain to use a part it’s not accustomed to using, so by making what you write legible, you both improve your brain function and the coordination it takes to control your hand. Needless to say, I should work on this. Alternatively, typing can be a great way to increase manual dexterity. The semester I after my accident (April, 1989) I took a typing class for this reason only. Now, I’m proud to say, I type a blazing 30 words per minute! Hahaha!

These are five ways to improve your manual dexterity. I’m sure that there are more, but I’m kinda drawing a blank right now. If you think of any others, please post them below in the comments section! Until next time…



Leave a Comment
  1. forgeability / Jun 12 2014 4:23 pm

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  2. Martyna / Dec 12 2015 2:22 pm

    This is dexterity, but what about coordination, as stated in the title?

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