Exercise and Fitness After Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) consists of a suite of resources to help people understand the importance of exercise and remaining fit after SCI.
This 19-minute video features individuals with SCI who share their fitness routines and explain how exercise has improved their quality of life. The video also includes expert input from health care professionals at the University of Pittsburgh Model Center on Spinal Cord Injury, who provide clinical insights on the importance of fitness and physical health after SCI.
People with SCI are more likely than the general population to have health problems related to weight gain, changes in cholesterol, and high blood sugar. People with SCI are also at higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Not being active may contribute largely to these problems. Normal, everyday activities aren’t enough to maintain cardiovascular fitness in people with SCI. Regular exercise can help to reduce the risk of health problems after SCI.
An SCI does not have to keep you from being active. Adaptive sports and recreation are good for your health. Without such activity, you may be at higher risk for physical and mental health problems, such as obesity, heart disease, and depression. You may also feel left out if you do not engage in enjoyable activities. Others may assume that you cannot be active just because of your injury.
This study looked at how physical activity affects depression and satisfaction with life in people with SCI.
People with an "incomplete" SCI have more potential to regain walking than those with a "complete" SCI, but people with both types of SCI may have gait training included in their therapy plans if deemed appropriate by their treatment team. Gait training is practicing walking with assistive devices, braces and other types of support as needed.
Gait training is needed because a spinal cord injury damages nerve cells and their connections. This damage can prevent movement signals from the brain to the muscles which typically causes weakness or paralysis in the feet, legs, hips, and trunk, as well as in the hands and arms.