Exercise Following a Brain Injury

 A safe and effective exercise program can play an important role in the rehabilitation process following a brain injury. For example, regular physical activity can help improve your balance and coordination, reduce reliance on assistive devices, and enhance your ability to do everyday activities and thus remain independent. Furthermore, following a brain injury, individuals who exercise are typically less depressed and report better quality of life than those who don’t exercise. The key is to determine what type of exercise is best for you and to follow a program that accommodates your individual needs and concerns.

Getting Started

  • Talk with your healthcare provider before starting an exercise program and ask for specific programming recommendations.
  • Take all medications as recommended by your physician.
  • The goals of your program should be to improve cardiovascular fitness, increase muscle strength and endurance, improve flexibility, and increase independence, mobility and ability to do daily activities.
  • You may find that it is easier to focus on your exercise if you avoid busy, crowded locations.
  • You may need to do some exercises such as cycling or walking with a work-out buddy if you have difficulty with balance or with finding your way throughout a community.
  • Choose low-impact activities such as walking, cycling or water exercises, which involve large muscles groups and can be done continuously.      
  • Start slowly and gradually progress the intensity and duration of your workouts. If your fitness level is low, start with shorter sessions (five to 10 minutes) and gradually build up to 20 to 60 minutes, three to five days per week.
  • Perform resistance-training and stretching exercises two days per week.
  • Take frequent breaks during activity if needed.


Exercise Cautions

  • Avoid exercises that overload your joints or increase your risk of falling.
  • Begin each exercise in a stable position and monitor your response before proceeding.
  • Reduced motor control in your limbs may restrict your ability to do certain exercises.
  • Exercise equipment may need to be modified to accommodate your specific needs.
  • Always wear protective headgear when cycling or doing any other activity in which a fall is possible because the rate of a second head injury is three times greater after you have had one head injury.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for demonstrations or further explanations about how to perform exercises properly.
  • Your exercise program should be designed to maximize the benefits with the fewest risks of aggravating your health or physical condition.

Source:  Exercise is Medicine

21 Responses to “Exercise Following a Brain Injury”

  1. Sioux says:

    I had a craniotomy a month ago . I need to exercise but yoga and inversions don’t work for me. also what about. kinetics ?

    keto genics

  2. AnneMarie says:

    Hi!! I had a brain surgey 7 months ago..but I don’t know if it’s ok to stars running again. Anyone advices?

  3. Maureen says:

    This is 3 days past week 5 after I had brain surgery to remove a begnign tumor. I had my 2nd bike ride today and on the return trip I almost bailed which was like – ah. Ok google, looks like you are right, I am aware that a fall in which I bumped my head in some way, would be bad news this soon after. I will wait the advised 3 months.

  4. Donna says:

    Hi, I recently had a tumour removed from my pontine and still have terrible trouble with balance

  5. Muhammad says:

    Hi guys. My little brother had surgery for a brain tumor. Its bee a few months nd he’s been going through chemo. He needs to do some physical activity cause he’s gaining weight. He is really weak at the moment and gets dizzy sometimes. He’s 9 years old. Any suggestions?

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  7. Josette says:

    Hi, I just had brain surgery and I have been gaining weight before I went in I was 154 and now I’m 201. My surgery was done at the beginning of Sept. and I am still having problems but I need to loss this weight. I still can’t do a lot but I know that I can do a lil.

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  9. Melanie Troska says:

    Hi Jonathan,
    To gain weight and build more muscle, focusing on both resistance training and nutrition is important. When calculating your height, weight, and age; you should probably get about 3000 calories per day–55% carbohydrates, 20% protein, 25% fat.

    Chocolate protein shakes are my favorite! Try blending protein powder and yogurt or 2% milk with flavors you like (ex: yogurt with blueberries and protein powder). It would help to have a shake every day.

    Since you have limited spare time because of school work, you can get your resistance training at home. If you are lifting weights, remember: less reps, heavier weight when trying to build muscle. Best of luck and good health to you!

  10. Lori Smith says:

    Hi Jonathan, I’m having the same problem as you! I had brain surgery a year ago and I’m still trying to put on the weight that I lost while I was sick. I’m losing muscle now because I don’t have any fat left. My neurologist took me off one of my meds (Topamax) because that drug can cause weight loss. Are you on any meds that can be contributing to the problem? I look forward to some suggestions that will help us both out!

  11. Jonathan Weaver says:

    hi everyone, I’m fifteen and i recently had brain surgery in my cerebelum to remove a rosette-forming tumor. It’s been almost 6 months now, and while my issues with nausea and balance are fixing themselves, I’m having trouble puting on weight and muscle. I way 120lb currently, and before surgery i weighed 130+, also i am getting very boney. I have lost ALOT of muscle, i am around 5’10” and have a very high metabolism. I already had enough problems with weight and muscle beforethe surgery, now its damn near impossible to work with. I’m really getting down about this, i was wondering if any of you could suggest a diet, exercise plan etc. (problem with exercise plans is they cannot interfere with school seeing as i’ve already missed way too much and am swamped with work. please help and contact me ASAP! thanks in advance.

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  14. Although I don’t use mine this way, their springiness and shape would make them good equipment mats. They’re too short for yoga, but if you’re looking to line a larger area for floor exercise or a child’s play area, these mats are a good choice.

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  16. debbie says:

    Thank you Bethanie!

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  18. Glen De Los Reyes says:

    Hi Riley!

    There could be many reasons a person has a hard time building muscle, especially when starting a new exercise program. First, is nutrition, meaning you need to feed your body with proper calories to provide a healthy environment internally. Your body and your muscles need to be properly nourished, so it is better to eat vegetables and meat (organic if possible), as well as varying the grains one eats from spelt to brown rice to quinoa etc… Try to stay away from anything packaged (bars, cereal, canned fruits-all these foods have some hidden sugars or preservatives.) I believe there should only be three isles at the grocery store: fruits and veggies, meat, and grains. By eating correctly, the body can digest and metabolize better, which will help you lose weight and allow your body to not waste energy on having to digest foods that are full of preservatives and other wasteful calories.
    The second thing that can be done to help build muscle is practicing controlled isometric exercises that really focus on the ability of connecting with the muscles and joints. For an example: work on your bicep muscle (a muscle that affects the shoulder and elbow) by flexing your elbow as much as you can and then with your opposite arm place resistance against this flexing motion for 30 seconds. You will notice that this in itself can be very difficult. However, you will gain the ability to connect more to your bicep, as well as all the other elbow flexors. So when you do place a lot more weight or force through that joint, the muscles will be more prepared for that stress. Now, imagine doing this to every joint of your body and reconnecting to movements; rather than using heavier weights or more force and load on joints, which could ultimately cause more stress and pain.

    I could go on with other suggestions, but this comment is getting long! Good luck with your weight training!

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  20. Is there a specific routine for building muscle for somebody which has a tricky time building muscle?

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