Light aerobic/cardio exercise (e.g., walking, biking, and swimming) is recommended after a concussion. There is evidence that—if you don’t overdo it—it can help with your symptoms and speed up recovery.
You can start adding cardio exercise to your recovery plan 4 to 7 days after your injury. This will help improve your sleep, mood, and headaches, and help to keep your muscles strong. You do not have to be symptom free before you start light activity, but if your symptoms get worse during or right after exercise, slow down and go easier next time.
Start with 10 to 15 minutes of exercise 2 times a week. Slowly work your way up to 5 times a week. Choose a non-jarring low-impact cardio exercises such as walking, stationary cycling, elliptical or stair climber machines, treadmill walking, swimming, or water exercises. When you feel ready, you can make your workouts longer and a little more challenging.
Avoid contact sports and jarring activities or things requiring high-level balance to avoid re-injuring yourself. Only return to jarring exercises, such as running, if you can do gentle aerobic exercise without making symptoms worse.
Keeping track of your activity and how you’re feeling will help you monitor your recover.
Return to Contact Sports
If you’re an athlete, you can start training again for your sport when are managing your symptoms well and have received clearance from a medical doctor. If symptoms get worse during or right after exercise, reduce your effort. Train at a level that you can tolerate without an increase in symptoms (e.g., sub-symptom threshold).
Don’t put yourself at risk for another concussion. Be very careful for 3 to 6 months after your injury. A second concussion while you’re recovering can be more dangerous, and your recovery will take longer.
- Until you’re recovered, avoid climbing ladders, riding a bicycle, or playing sports where there is a risk of getting hit on the head.
- Always wear the right helmet when you’re doing sports (e.g., biking, skating, horseback riding, skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding, in-line skating). Make sure the helmet is certified and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for wearing it.
- Follow all safety procedures and use safety equipment when working from heights or around dangerous machinery.
- Keep trying to lower your risk of a concussion, even after you’re fully recovered.