Healthy body, healthy mind: A mixed methods study of outcomes, barriers and supports for exercise by people who have chronic moderate-to-severe acquired brain injury

Laura S. Lorenz, Ph.D., M.Ed., Ann L. Charrette, D.P.T., Therese M. O’Neil-Pirozzi, Sc.D., C.C.C.-S.L.P., Julia M. Doucett, B.A., Jeffrey Fong, PharmD

Disability and Health Journal, Volume 11, Issue 1, January 2018, Pages 70-78


Few people with chronic moderate-to-severe brain injury are following recommended physical activity guidelines.


Investigate effects of planned, systematic physical activity while cultivating social and emotional well-being of people with chronic moderate-to-severe brain injury.


Moderate-to-intensive physical activity would be associated with improvements in impairment and activity limitation measures (endurance, mobility, gait speed) immediately post-intervention and six weeks later (study week 12).


The intervention was a single group pre-/post-intervention study with 14 people with chronic moderate-to-severe brain injury who live in brain injury group homes and exercised 60–90 min, 3 days per week for 6 weeks at a maximum heart rate of 50–80%. Pre-post measures (administered weeks 0, 6 and 12) were the 6 Minute Walk Test, High-level Mobility Assessment Tool and 10 Meter Walk Test. The qualitative component used a brief survey and semi-structured interview guide with participants, family members, and staff.


Following program completion, post-intervention group changes were noted on all outcome measures and greater than minimal detectable change for people with brain injury. Three transitioned from low to high ambulatory status and maintained this change at 12 weeks. During interviews, participants agreed the program was stimulating. More than eighty percent liked working out in a group and felt better being active.


Program impact 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.