This is an important one. Way important. Not only does exercise increase oxygen flow through the brain and body, it also helps move “sludge” out of the system. This time of year, especially, getting enough exercise is of paramount importance. Because it’s getting to be cold and flu season, folks, and that means your body needs some extra help.
See the picture on the right? That’s your lymphatic system. It carries fluid called “lymph” through your system and that fluid helps transport white blood cells and also clear out junk from infections and illness. The lymphatic system doesn’t circulate only on its own like the circulatory system. It needs muscular contractions to help move the fluid through — which means exercise can only help. I’ve read that especially movement on the right side of the body helps to move lymph. In any case, any movement is good, as far as I’m concerned. (Provided, of course, you’re not overdoing it.)
Exercise is also incredibly important because of the benefits to the brain. A lot of research has come out in the past years about how it improves cognition, as well as mood. It helps with attentional issues, and it can ease depression. Exercising first thing in the morning has been shown to help at-risk kids turn around poor performance, as well as helping regular kids excel.
Speaking from personal experience, a lot of problems I was having several years ago really eased up when I started exercising regularly. I think it was a combination of things that helped me, including relieving stress and being better able to relax. Whatever it was, getting in some rigorous exercise, first thing each morning was a definite precursor to the vast improvements I’ve experienced over the past few years.
Exercise helps in so many ways. Having better stamina and more strength also helps take the pressure off my daily life, because I’m physically more able to keep up with everything. I don’t tire as easily, and in the process I enjoy my life a whole lot more. It’s good. It’s really, really good. And as far as I’m concerned, a supportive community of fitness-oriented folks you can exercise with regularly can probably do as much good for you as an officially qualified rehab professional. In some ways, they might even be able to do more.
Everybody has their place, of course… Not to knock the qualified professionals, but TBI recovery really does have a big physiological component to it, so if you don’t take care of that, things can turn out harder for you than need be.
One of the other benefits of exercise with TBI is that it can require prolonged concentration and focus. Minding your form while you’re lifting weights or you’re going through certain motions, is a kind of meditation in itself, and it can strengthen your attention and help you deal with distractability. When you’re in danger of really hurting yourself if you use bad form, it has a way of focusing your attention like nothing else. And of course paying attention to how your body feels as you’re going through the motions is great mindfulness exercise. Not to mention how your body feels after you’re done with your workout – or on the next day, when you get re-acquainted with all the muscles you forgot you had in the first place.
If nothing else, exercise gets you out of your head. And for some of us — TBI or no — that’s the best thing about it.
It think it’s fair to say, my TBI recovery took a dramatic turn for the better, when I started getting regular exercise. I don’t doubt for a minute that it could do the same for others. And that’s why I consider it the #2 building block of a quality TBI recovery. Speaking of moving… gotta get up and go.