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Exercising soon after concussion reduces recovery time

Posted April 20, 2018

Exercising is so important to us. It is good for our mental and physical health. Now scientists from the University of Toronto found that starting aerobic exercise early can help people recover faster. In fact, sometimes starting to exercise as early as 24 hours after injury can be very helpful if the person wants to return to his job or school as soon as possible.

Stationary cycling is a good low-impact exercise to start doing soon after the injury. Image credit: via Wikimedia

Now, of course, everything is better in moderation. 24 hours after injury may not work for everyone after such a traumatic event as concussion. But aerobic exercise does work. Previous studies showed that exercising helps recovery after stroke, depression, brain surgeries, so why not concussion? Scientists followed the recovery of 253 people between the ages of 15 and 20 and found that light, low impact aerobic exercise improved the recovery times significantly. In fact, it was always better to start earlier than later – each postponed day of exercising impacted the trajectory of the recovery.

Starting exercising three days after the injury, rather than one day, reduced the probability of fast return to sport by 36.5 % and to school or work by 45.9 %. These numbers were 73.2 and 83.1 % for the seven day mark respectively. And so, the recommendation should be to start aerobic exercise as early as possible, but high-impact exercises should be avoided. At the beginning it is better to avoid exercises that require a lot of head movement. For example, jogging and swimming are not recommended, while stationary cycling, elliptical and walking would be ideal. However, of course, each case is different and so each patient should listen to his doctor for more personalized recommendations.

Interestingly, scientists did not notice any difference between men and women in this case. However, previous concussions or a history of loss of consciousness can be linked to longer recovery times. Michael Hutchison, co-author of the study, said: “Historically, concussion management was based on a simple recipe of rest until your symptoms go away.  However, what we have realized is that in many people symptoms take time to resolve and prolonged periods of rest may have a negative impact because rest was interpreted as no activity in sport, school, work, screen and social activities”. Results of this study apply more to physicians than the patients themselves.

People after concussions have to listen to doctor’s recommendations. This study shows that doctors should recommend exercising earlier and doing low impact exercises.


Source: University of Toronto

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