Concussion can affect your autonomic nervous system and blood flow to your brain which is why exercise sometimes makes symptoms feel worse. In the past it was suggested that people avoid exercise until symptoms resolve.
Avoiding all exercise beyond a few days is not recommended because we don’t respond well to inactivity and being removed from normal life. Research now tells us that exercise with supervision can improve recovery.
When can I start exercising?
- Low level exercise like walking can be started right away.
- Wait a day or two before elevating your heart rate higher than a light walk
- After the first few days, begin light exercise as tolerated (small symptom increase is okay). Only add more activity if it does not set you back.
What kind of exercise is recommended?
- Walking progressing to brisk walks, hiking, and eventually jogging and running.
- Consider light housework and gentle yard-work as exercise
- Examples: vacuuming, sweeping/mopping, cleaning, laundry, taking out the trash, cutting the lawn or pulling weeds (for small yards).
- Stationary bike
- Gentle Yoga
- Stretching and mobility work
- Calisthenics (bodyweight exercises)
- Tai Chi
- Gentle water exercise
How much exercise is okay?
- If you are doing low-level exercise, you will not damage your brain (even though you still experience symptoms).
- Start with less that you think you can do (even just a few minutes) and increase the duration, intensity or type of exercise gradually
- Use a “stoplight” exertion scale as a rough guide and aim for the yellow zone.
- Get support and guidance from your healthcare team
Stoplight Exertion Scale
- RED ZONE. My symptoms flared up immediately and did not calm down for hours (or days). I had trouble coping. I should avoid this.
- YELLOW ZONE. My symptoms increased but were tolerable and subsided within a few minutes or hours. This is the goal.
- GREEN ZONE. Activity did not change my symptoms much. I should increase the intensity or duration.