Exercises Following a Traumatic Brain Injury

Sep 22, 2014
Tagged with: Exercises Following a Traumatic Brain Injury

Recovering from a traumatic brain injury is a long and arduous process during which the patient’s mobility and independence are in recovery. There’s the psychological aspect too. A healthy recovery therefore requires patients to conquer their negativity, combat their sedentary lifestyle, and incorporate a certain amount of exercise into their routine every day.

Research has found that exercise helps recovery of TBI persons. It improves cardiorespiratory fitness, level of endurance, as well as sense of balance in TBI patients. Here are a few exercise suggestions following a TBI.

Important: These exercises should only be taken up after your doctor decides you are ready for this level of activity.

Aerobic Exercises

Pushing/Walking on the treadmill, jogging, cycling, swimming – basically any exercise that increases your heart rate, employs large groups of muscles, and improves the flow of oxygen to your brain is good for TBI patients. Start with warm-up exercises that cover a good range of motion. Start slowly, and don’t push yourself too much. You must firmly aim to remain within your comfort zone in the beginning. If you are experiencing balance problems, adapted yoga, seated exercises, and small pushing/walking are the safest.

If you don’t want to join the gym yet, go for a longer push/ walk in the mornings and the evenings. 20-30 minutes each time should do. It is important to get about 150 minutes per week of moderate walking/pushing. Avoid going out when the weather is bad, however, and especially if it’s raining/snowing. You don’t want to put yourself at the risk of injury. As you feel strong enough, increase the pace of your push/walk, or the speed of your biking. The aim will now be to challenge yourself, but only after you have laid a firm foundation for it. It is also important to get about 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise. Apart from getting your body some much needed exercise, pushing/walking will also expose you to fresh air. If done properly and regularly, walking/pushing has an almost therapeutic effect on people.

Strength Training

A protracted sedentary lifestyle weakens the body considerably. While aerobic exercises are a good start and do wonders for your mood and energy levels, on their own they are not sufficient to restore a body to optimum levels of fitness.

Some degree of resistance training is needed to strengthen your musculoskeletal structure. Work with your gym trainer to devise a strength training program suited to your level of fitness and requirements, and keeping your disabilities (if any) in mind.

Again, if you are not inclined to go to the gym yet, you can carry out some strength training exercises at home using your body for resistance. Push-ups, squats, lunges, dips, and crunches are good options. Elementary Pilates and yoga too offer resistance training in some form or the other.

Focus on your form and balance in the beginning, not so much on the number of reps. Carry out each movement to the best of your ability.

Include a 20-30 min schedule of strength training on top of your 30-min walk to slowly regain your strength and balance, and improve overall fitness.

Cognitive Exercises

Along with your body, it’s important to exercise your brain as well.

In the wake of TBI, many patients complain of a decreased ability to focus or process things. Cognitive abilities as well as the memory take a hit. Undertaking cognitive exercises on a daily basis has the potential to undo the damage and make you considerably sharper.

Unlike other exercises though, this can be fun. Try games and activities that require you to focus and deploy different parts of your brain. Meaning, Angry Birds is out. Chess and mahjong, on the other hand, are preferred. Carom is also a great option, seeing as it requires you to employ your spatial skills on top of your hand-eye coordination.

Here’s a list of games you can play online for free, which will aid you in sharpening your cognitive abilities.


Every person’s recovery after a severe accident is different. They face different challenges and exhibit different levels of motivation in conquering them. Billy Wilkerson had a nasty accident when a drunk driver rammed into his car, and he spent two years recovering from his brain injury. Within just a few months of his accident, however, he had taken up CrossFit training. That sort of a thing can shock most of us; it certainly did shock his doctor. But it worked for Billy. I’m not saying you should consider CrossFit too, only pointing out to you the possibility of what can be done with a body post a TBI. Stick with what feels good and does not produce any side-effects. But at the same time, don’t get stuck in limiting thoughts. You need to move that body and exercise that brain more than ever.

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Author: Michael Georgiou

  • Jonathan Allen

    Hi, I just saw this article and I know it’s a few years old. But in the section just above “conclusion”, you mentioned this “Here’s a list of games you can play online for free, which will aid you in sharpening your cognitive abilities.”
    Did the list of games get removed or is it just me because I don’t see any lists :(

    I had a TBI a few years ago and although physically I seem normal but gradually I noticed in basketball for example that although I can still dribble a basketball but its like I can’t visualize or connect all of the moves into a play. In other words I used to be a point guard and so it was natural to do a cross over, dribble behind my back, and dribble thru an opponents legs. I mean I can still physically do these for the most part but only if im standing still and its in a practice or something.

    I saw that you listed the game carom that helps with spatial skills, so I was hoping you might know of other types of games as well. Thank you

  • ShaunBest

    Exercising for myself since my 3-month coma in 1977, has ensured walking, even with 62 blows to the head as many cities remain non-accessible. My poetry at http://www.life-with-confidence.org & http://www.texansforthearts.org or encouragement can be found in numerous books, i.e., Best Quest, or those I’ve edited like “Concussion Recovery”, Mrs. Butler, http://www.brainnavigators.org, etc., of my optimistic explanatory learning style referenced to the Harvard University book The Unschooled Mind, by Southern Arkansas University, Dr. Flemister, in 1997 or as I & Dr. Carmadese, MD, of our Americanism Foundation 1994, “Positivism”. Who knew I had been walking with Cervical Spondylosis Pinched Nerve L4-5 & S1, since 1978. In Beaumont they’ve denied my pain medications since arriving in 2017? Pray for others who are treated like this? My thriving open-heart surgery from 1969 at Arkansas Children’s Hospital has not encouragement or reduced abortions as Bro. Bianchi had desired with his book I edited “Effective & Enduring Leadership”, as he wrote in 2017 about my almost abortion, noting my 1977 Christmas Eve Walking Miracle after my 3-month coma from the truck that left the road creating World Day of Remembrance for Roadside Victims https://wdor-archive.com/usa-ar-gathering-awareness-19-november-2016/.