Getting Back into Fitness After a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Introduction

Around 2.8 million Americans sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI) every year and if you are one of them, you may wonder how quickly you can get back to your fitness routine. Your medical team will be able to tell you when to start and what form of exercise your routine should take. In the past, doctors recommended ‘cocooning’ (or resting completely from physical and mental activities) until symptoms disappeared. However, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years, and failing to stay active can result in a higher risk of anxiety and depression.

Recent research has shown, moreover, that restarting activity within the week of a concussion (with your doctor’s approval) can shorten recovery time and reduce the likelihood of post-concussion syndrome. Of course, it all depends on the severity of your injury. Always follow the advice of a medical professional and ask them the following questions to make sure you stay on track.

What Type of Exercise Should I Do?

A TBI may affect aspects such as your range of motion, flexibility, or muscle endurance, so it is important to have a personalised workout to work on target areas. In the initial stages of your diagnosis, your medical team may carry out various tests to see the effect the TBI has had on various areas of functioning. If you are advised to rest during this time, take advantage to sort your health insurance and legal matters. If someone else’s negligence or medical malpractice has resulted in your injury, consult a TBI attorney to find out if you are entitled to compensation. TBI may require several years of rehabilitation and therapy and any compensation you will receive will not only buy you time but also help cover the costs of exercise and other equipment.

Cardiovascular and Strength Training

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that people recovering from a TBI should aim to exercise three to five times per week at a 40% to 70% peak oxygen uptake intensity (or a 13/20 rate of perceived exertion) for 20 to 60 minutes. Cardiovascular training can include swimming, walking, cycling, or any exercise recommended by their doctor. Not only does cardiovascular exercise reduce the risk of depression, heart disease, obesity, and various types of cancer, but it can also help people with TBIs build up their endurance so that day-to-day tasks can be easier to perform. You should also aim to complete two strength sessions per week, completing up to two sets of eight to 12 repetitions.

Do not Forget to Stretch

Stretching should be an important part of your routine and indeed, dedicated stretching workouts should be carried out every other day if possible to maintain joint flexibility. Stretching helps increase muscle length, allowing you to complete your routines while lowering your injury rates. After stretching for around 15 minutes, you will probably notice that it is easier to complete exercises requiring motions such as bending and squatting. 

Research indicates that exercise can play an important role in the recovery from TBIs. If you have experienced this type of injury, follow medical recommendations and run any routine you plan on completing by your doctors. They will most probably recommend a combination of cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility exercises, which will boost your endurance and enhance your mental wellbeing.

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