In terms of people with brain injuries, as with others with disabilities, more attention and opportunities are needed. Currently, few fitness programs are offered and/or available for persons with brain injury. At best, fitness for an individual with a brain injury takes the form of recreational activities and outings with no clear structure and no evaluation format. A proper evaluation format provides safety precautions for the participant while recording valuable information that is helpful in determining future progress and goals.
Persons with brain injuries face the same dilemma as persons with developmental disabilities. James Rimmer, Ph.D., at the University of Illinois at Chicago, argues that the number of people with developmental disabilities participating in organized fitness activities is very limited. Rimmer also says: "There is a pressing need to convey the message to the community of professionals, staff, and families who work in this field that fitness is not a luxury, but rather, an essential prerequisite for maintaining optimal health and well-being throughout the lifespan."
It has been observed that most professionals either lack the expertise in this area to provide adequate programming, or are simply unaware of the need for this component to be added to the current program structure in which they work.
Studies are limited in the area of persons with brain injuries in relation to exercise, health, and activity patterns. In a paper entitled, "The Benefits of Exercise in Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury," Gordon et al., 1998 note: "The results of this study point to the need for a prospective study in which the effects of exercise in individuals with TBI are rigorously evaluated. In such a study, factors such as length of time since injury; severity of injury; and the potential benefits in terms of cognitive function, physical capacity, and mood need to be more precisely measured and controlled." Gordon et al. also contend that the credibility of their results argue strongly for additional research.
It has been observed that people with brain injuries generally have a greater propensity towards poor health habits as well as having poor health profiles. As in other special needs populations, the benefits of a proper exercise program can be helpful in the avoidance of secondary health problems. Health-risking habits and behaviors that have been observed:
- Dietary problems or habits
- Lack of exercise
- Prolonged inactivity
- Medications that may be debilitating over time
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Lack of initiation