This is a part of the Hot Topic podcast series from the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center on Exercise and Fitness After Spinal Cord Injury. Amanda Harrington, M.D., Medical Director discusses Exercising and Independence.

So one of the goals after spinal cord injury is to get someone to be as independent as possible, whether that is just the transferring from their bed to their wheelchair, getting into the bathroom to do their toileting routine or bathing, getting dressed, doing simple meal prep, or whether we’re talking about driving a vehicle and returning to work, the goal is always to get somebody as independent as possible.

And so exercise can play a role in independence, because it just helps someone be more physically fit. And so the more physically fit you are, the more able you are to do activities because you have more energy. So exercise and cardiovascular health, we know it helps to improve energy, it helps to improve overall physical well-being.

There’s positive psychological benefits. And so those that are doing more, that are doing more exercise, have a greater chance of being more independent and more engaged in society.

So one example of how being more physically fit would allow you to be independent would be if someone is driving a sedan. And they would need to break down their wheelchair in order to get into the vehicle and drive independently. So for individuals that are going to be transferring into a car, they have to do a transfer into the vehicle. They have to break down the wheelchair and often pick it up and lean it over, put it in the seat next to them or behind them. And then when they get to their destination, do the reverse. Folks that have more cardiovascular health, that are more physically fit, are easier able to do multiple car transfers on a daily basis.

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