Exercise After Brain Injury

Jan 16, 2017

For many of us, the new year is the perfect chance to improve our health and fitness after the indulgences of the festive season – but the majority of us soon give up on new year’s resolutions relating to exercise. One of the key mistakes is setting the bar too high, with tough workouts and a lack of immediate results often putting people off.



Living with brain injury may mean that you have physical problems, in which case, exercise is the central part of your rehabilitation as well as contributing to your wellbeing. Even if you have no physical effects but you do have memory, emotional or executive problems; physical exercise should also be part of your routine as it will greatly help promote feelings of general wellbeing.


General guidelines
  • Make exercise part of your daily routine – routine and structure are very important after brain injury

  • Exercise when you are most alert and have most energy – usually in the morning

  • If you do have specific physical problems get a neuro-physiotherapist to set your daily exercise programme

  • Prepare yourself for exercise by doing gentle warm up exercises – a great way to avoid injury

  • Exercise with composure and focus on the physical movement

  • Pause every so often to monitor that you are doing the correct movements and to check how fatigued you are – it is important you don’t over do it

  • If you have spasticity check every so often to monitor your muscle tone, if the tone increases it may be that your arm may flex for example, at this point you need to relax and let the tone normalise

  • Warm down with gentle exercise after completing your exercise programme

  • Make resting after exercise part of your routine – you have earned it

  • Don’t exercise late in the evening – you may struggle to get to sleep

  • Don’t exercise if you are feeling particularly tired – it’s ok to have a day off

  • Don’t exercise if you are feeling unwell

  • Don’t get addicted to exercise – have a day not doing physical exercise every so often

  • Try not to become overly dependent on your neuro-physiotherapist – see them every so often so they can reassess you and possibly change your exercise programme


If possible try to undertake various specific forms of exercise:

Anaerobic exercise: These are high intensity muscular activities, such as weight training. These exercises strengthen and help maintain muscle mass and bone density, doing anaerobic exercise also helps control body fat.

Aerobic Exercise: This form of exercise is primarily cardiovascular exercise which conditions heart and lungs and enables the heart to use oxygen more efficiently. Large muscle groups are used rhythmically for a period of 15 to 20 minutes. Additional benefits include an increased resistance to fatigue and extra energy and the control of body fat…Examples of aerobic exercise are walking, cycling, jogging and swimming.

Posture: It is important to think about your posture at all times, being in the correct body alignment is an exercise in itself. It may help prevent injury during exercise.

Balance: ‘Use it or lose it’. We need to challenge our body’s balance mechanisms, to improve our balance reactions and co-ordination. This must always be done in a safe environment, where you have a stable surface to hold on to if required.  Working on your core stability (your body) will also help your balance. 

Stretching: To allow your muscles to work as efficiently as possible, they need to be kept at an optimal length. Shortening of any muscles will make the opposing muscles weaker and have to work harder, and put your whole body out of alignment. Stretches are exercises that need to be done slowly and be held for a minimum of 30 seconds. It is good to stretch out after exercise. Yoga, Tai chi and Pilates are good forms of exercise for stretching, working posture and core stability, and relaxation. Many men do these forms of exercise too!!!!


Benefits of exercise
  • Decreased risk of developing heart disease and preventing secondary disease

  • A decrease in body fat (helps lose weight)

  • A decrease in the risk of developing osteoporosis by maintaining bone density (especially important in women)

  • Helps prevent falls

  • Improve blood pressure

  • A decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and when present helps control blood sugars

  • A decrease in anxiety and mild depression

  • An improvement in self esteem and confidence 


Most of all; enjoy your exercise! There’s something out there for everyone.