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. Michael Boninger M.D, researcher, discusses Peer Support and Exercise.

I think one of the most important things that we do here and that is done across the country is that we have peer supports as part of what we do. So when you have a spinal cord injury, I think in most good centers who treat spinal cord injury — and I think you need to go to a great center when you have a spinal cord injury — we’ll hook you up with a peer support.

And I think almost very quickly they’ll start talking about what it’s like to have a spinal cord injury, and I would venture to guess that most peer counselors exercise, that they exercise. They were empowered by that, and that might be one of the reasons they’re volunteering their time to be part of a team that is helping someone with a spinal cord injury get past their injury. I think that spinal cord injury can be so overwhelming, and there’s so much you learn in those first few weeks after you’re injured and you’re in a rehabilitation setting, that the most important thing is the follow-up after that.

So sometimes you have to say as a physician, I find I have to say something more than once to someone for it to sink in. And so it’s not, “Hey, we’re going to introduce you to exercise while you’re an in-patient in the hospital and we’re going to forget about it.” What it is, is, “We’re going to introduce you to exercise in the hospital. We’re going to have you meet a peer who’s going to tell you what it’s like to ride a bicycle on a trail, and then we’re going to bring you back into the hospital or have the peer call you or follow-up in some way” so that you hear about exercise repeatedly.

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