Exercise and Brain Injury

Shows why exercise is an essential part of neurological rehabilitation. It will help patients gain strength and movement while improving cognitive functioning, as well as improving mood while increasing self-esteem.

Specific benefits include improved neuroplasticity, accelerated healing, developing new skills and improved mental health.

Explains and demonstrates at-home physical exercises for legs, core, arms and balance as well as cognitive exercises to improve cognitive function.

Massachusetts Resources

Provides services to eligible people with external traumatic brain injuries including skills training, adult companions, residential services, shared living and Brain Injury Community Centers.

The MRC-CBS can help people move out of nursing facilities and live independently in the community. The CBS provides training and education about brain injuries to individuals, professionals and families. Community Based Services programs include: Statewide Head Injury Program (SHIP) (Traumatic Brain Injury Waiver, Post-transition Rolland Services), ABI/MFP Program (Acquired Brain Injury Non-Residential Waiver and Moving Forward Plan Community Living Waiver) and Elder Services (TBI) Implementation Grant.


This study aimed to see how exercise affected the function and fitness of individuals with ABI. The exercise programs used in this study were 6-week programs in which participants exercised 3x/week, each time for 60-90 minutes. Endurance, activity levels, and gait speed were all assessed at the beginning, end, and 6 weeks after the end of the program. It was found that the exercise programs aided in endurance, gait, and walking ability. After just 6 weeks, the study showed significant benefits in walking speed and gait in individuals with ABI. Despite these findings, there are still barriers to participation such as motivation, transportation, and cost which require further investigation and intervention to improve. This study can be utilized to implement similar beneficial programs and continue to find ways to overcome barriers.

This study used interview methods to investigate the perceptions of physical fitness programs at SLI from participants, family members, and staff. Individuals with moderate-to-severe ABI showed increased endurance, mobility, and walking speed as result of the fitness program, and exercise also has been shown to improve brain function. The interviews concluded that a great majority of participants found exercise programs stimulating and that they enjoyed the program and trainers, as well as felt better being active. There were physical impacts, psycho-social impacts, and emotional impacts all providing numerous benefits for participants. Findings of this study can be used to help with formatting of the program, training of staff/interns, and to identify strengths and weaknesses of the program itself.  Using the findings of this study and feedback from those interviewed, barriers to the exercise program can be reevaluated and can look to make positive changes in the future to continue to develop the program. This includes continuing to have strategic and refined program goals, expanding the number of people served, finding public funding, and promoting fitness for this population.

This study investigated effects of planned, systematic physical activity while cultivating social and emotional well-being of people with chronic moderate-to-severe brain injury. Programs impacted included physical, cognitive and social/emotional aspects. Social aspects (group format, trainers) were highly motivating and supported by residents, family, and staff. Investments in transportation and recruiting and training interns to assist participants are critical to program sustainability and expansion.

Even though stroke is the third, not the first, most common cause of disability-adjusted life years in developed countries, it is one of the most expensive to treat. Part of the expense is due to secondary problems in the post-stroke period including: cognition, memory, attention span, pain, sensation loss, psychological issues, and problems with mobility and balance. Research has identified that exercise has both positive physical and psychosocial effects for post-stroke patients. Therefore, this scientific statement provides an overview on exercise rehabilitation
for post-stroke patients.

This study investigated the effects of high-intensity exercise on endurance, mobility and gait speed of adults with chronic moderate-to-severe acquired brain injury (ABI).  Post-intervention improvements were achieved on average on all three measures, greater than minimal detectable change (MDC) for this population. Three participants transitioned from low-to-high ambulatory status and maintained the change 6 weeks later.