Is exercise good for post-concussion syndrome? My experience + How a 16-week exercise plan helped me
Updated: 2 days ago
Before the accident, I worked out mostly four times a week. I was very active and loved it! But then I had a scooter accident and sustained whiplash and concussion and working out with a concussion wasn’t going well. In this blog, I dive deeper into the question: “Is exercise good for post-concussion syndrome?” And I will share my experience.
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Table of contents
What exercise did I do before the accident?
Before the accident, I went to the gym mostly four times a week. I started with 15-minute cardio followed by 45 minutes of fitness (weightlifting). I felt fit, strong and exercise gave me so much energy that I couldn’t imagine a life without.
Besides that, I went to many festivals where I danced the whole day, which counts as cardio as well, right? ;).
Then the accident happened, and working out with a concussion wasn’t going well…
I sustained a concussion and whiplash in May 2017. I drove home on my scooter and bumped into another scooter. In my first two years, I didn’t know I’d sustained a concussion because I didn’t fall on my head, and no doctor mentioned it. Can you believe it?!
So, I dragged myself to the gym because I knew (before the accident) that this always helped me to get more energy and feel better. Of course, I wasn’t just feeling off, but I didn’t know what to do because I’d already been at home for weeks. I NEEDED to try something.
I didn’t give myself the time to rest. I started to search for anything that could help, and when you start reading on Google about exercising, it seems like this helps with almost everything you’re suffering from.
I tried everything to get better, but is exercise good for post-concussion syndrome?
Well, I felt way worse after going to the gym and decided it wasn’t helping at all. I had to recover for weeks after one gentle session. What was going on with me? I felt confused. I didn’t know what to do and whether exercise would be beneficial or if it could do more harm.
Over time, I learned that aerobic exercise helps with brain function, increasing blood flow to the brain. Your brain is getting more oxygen, which it needs to function properly. Exercise also stimulates cell growth and improves neuroplasticity, something that’s so important in your concussion recovery.
Studies show that every time you exercise, your body produces protein. Exercise will create a post-cognitive boost for hours, and there are way more benefits. It’s an important factor in healing from a concussion and improving cognitive skills. Your brain needs exercise, so it can obtain and use chemicals to heal. But the most important question is, how could I exercise after feeling so bad after every session?
I went from 0 to 100 instead of building up - Exercise after a concussion
Because I was always used to giving everything I had in a session, it was so hard for me to go to the gym and just do a few exercises. I always overdid it, and my concussion symptoms were getting worse and worse.
It’s so important to build up exercise after sustaining a concussion. Your body is sensitive to every movement, which can worsen when you do too much.
I felt lost because I didn’t know what to do anymore. Should I work out, or should I rest?
It seemed like no one knew the answer, and I had to figure everything out myself.
It took me two years! Working out with a concussion was finally something that helped!
After doing gentle walks (this was the only thing that didn’t make it worse), I found a doctor who knew more about exercise after a concussion. It felt like a relief, as I finally did get some answers.
She gave me a 16-week exercise plan to build up exercise.
Sticking to a plan did help me a lot instead of just doing “something” and guessing it would be okay. It gave me more guidance and structure, making it possible not to exceed my limit each time.
Let me tell you more about this plan and how to build up exercise in a gentle way.
The 16-week exercise plan
Because this exercise plan helped me a lot, I decided to add this to The Concussion Community Platform as well. And with success!! Look at the comments from members:
The 16-week plan looks like this:
- Month 1: Starting Slow
- Month 1: Strength Training: Supine / Supported Exercises
- Month 2: Building Tolerance
- Strength Training Month 2: Add to Month 1 Exercises
- Month 3: Increasing Intensity
- Month 3: Strengthening: Standing Exercises
- Month 4: Increasing exercise load, adding interval training
- Strength Training Month 4: Dynamic Movements & Balance
This plan includes aerobic exercises, resistance training, balance work, and appropriate rest. The most important thing is to listen to your body.
Let me share you the first week of this 16-week plan to give you an idea:
You will find the full return to exercise post-concussion course (+ the full 16-week plan) from Dr. Jessica Klain on the platform of The Concussion Community. Join/get more information.
Consistency is everything - Don’t push too hard
This plan helped me a lot two years after the accident when I felt very lost and didn’t know what to do. It gave me some guidance in building up exercising, getting motivated and getting more confidence.
I learned the most important thing when it comes to exercise after a concussion is not to do as much as you can but do it consistently, step by step. In this way, your body is getting used to the exercises, and you can handle a bit more over time. You don’t run a marathon right away without any training, right?
When you push yourself too much and go over your limits all the time, your body is recovering from the sessions ALL THE TIME. That’s why it’s so important to find that balance between moving forward and pushing just a little bit.
How many times and how do I exercise right now?
After building exercise up step by step, believe me, this wasn’t always as easy as it sounds ;), I started to create my own schedule. I learned what I could handle, and that small steps lead to bigger results.
At this moment, it’s been five years since the accident, and I can handle way more than in the beginning.
Right now, I am exercising three times a week. Some weeks more, some weeks less, but three on average. I do cardio and strength training.
At first, I tried to go to the gym, but I changed it to working out from home or running in nature. Working out with a concussion in the gym can be so overwhelming. There is always loud music and many people.
So, I bought some weights, and I run outside. Behind our house is a forest which I LOVE.
The most important thing I learned is not to push myself when I don’t feel well, as this makes things worse. So, when I feel good, I decide if I want to go for a run or do some strength training at home.
I feel so much better when I exercise compared with when I don’t exercise. I totally understand it’s hard to find that balance. Believe me, I had many setbacks because I did too much. During that moment, you feel like exercise isn’t helping but making things worse.
But I promise when you build up exercise slowly when you listen to your body and find your balance, exercise after a concussion is medicine!
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✔️ to reduce my fatigue & brain fog ✔️ to have more energy ✔️ to improve my sleep ✔️to feel less stressed ✔️ to exercise again (finally!) ✔️ to have a better mood
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