When can you start weight lifting after brain injury? Will weight lifting cause more damage to your brain?
If you are wondering what the answer to these questions are, you have come to the right place.
In this article, we answer some of the most common questions about weight lifting after brain injury, and we also take a look at some of the risks and benefits associated with it.
Is Weight Lifting After Brain Injury Safe?
In most cases, yes. In fact, exercise – including weight lifting – has many benefits for recovery.
Weight lifting can help improve your muscular strength and function, increase blood flow to your brain, and stimulate neuroplasticity, all of which helps your brain heal itself.
However, while moderate exercise increases blood flow to the brain, heavy exercise has been shown to lead to a decrease in cerebral blood flow, so be careful not to accidently over-do it.
Also, heavy weight lifting has been associated with certain brain injuries such as stroke and cerebral hemorrhages. So again, it is critical that you do not lift anything extremely heavy.
You alone know how much strain your body can take though. As long as you are not getting too fatigued, you should be ok.
When Can I Start Lifting Again?
It depends on the severity of your injury. Most guidelines say you should get lots of rest immediately after brain injury, then slowly return to exercise.
However, there have also been studies that show too much rest post-injury can have negative effects on recovery, because it can make you lose function from lack of activity.
A good rule of thumb is to listen to your body. If you feel strong enough to lift, and you are not at risk of losing your balance and falling, then you should feel free to begin lifting weights again.
If lifting weights puts too much strain on you though, and you feel exhausted afterwards, then you should wait and give your body more time to recover.
How Much Can I Lift?
This is really something only you can answer, but in general, you do not want to be lifting so much weight that you overwork yourself, especially in the early days of your recovery.
As we mentioned above, high intensity workouts can actually decrease blood flow to your brain, which is not something you want to happen during your recovery.
After brain injury, we want to be encouraging as much blood flow to the brain as possible in order to promote healthy brain function.
You also want to avoid lifting so much that you exhaust yourself, as this can set you back and even cause you harm. We recommend starting at about 50% of your weight lifting capacity and slowly working your way up from there. This way you can avoid any risk of straining yourself.
Another good way to avoid strain is to stick with low resistance/high repetition exercises. Choose a weight that you can do about two sets of 20-30 repetitions without tiring out.
These exercises are not only safer, but they also are more effective at building muscle. So it’s a win/win for you!
What Other Exercises Can I Do?
If weight lifting is too difficult and is putting too much strain on your body, that doesn’t mean you are stuck being a couch potato.
You want to make sure you are still finding ways to keep your body and mind active after your brain injury, so that you do not lose any of the cognitive and physical abilities you still have left.
Aerobic exercise has been proven to boost recovery in brain injury patients, and it is much easier on your body than weight lifting. So if you have too much trouble weight lifting, try doing some aerobic fitness exercises instead!
Pilates, yoga, and swimming are all great aerobic activities, and are offered as classes at most gyms and recreational centers.
Check out this list of other physical exercises for brain injury for more ideas on how to stay active after TBI.
Weight Lifting After Brain Injury
In general, weight lifting after brain injury is safe for most people and can be practiced relatively frequently. Your main concern should just be avoiding too much fatigue and strain and paying close attention to your body.
As with everything related to health and fitness though, if you ever feel unsure about a certain exercise, your safest bet is to talk to your doctor first. He or she will know the details of your injury and can say whether weight lifting is a good idea for you or not.