Topics: Research, Health & Exercise

New Exercise Guidelines Released for Spinal Cord Injury Survivors

You are told many things once you become paralyzed about how to stay in shape, and these instructions usually include loose guidelines on how you should exercise as someone with a spinal cord injury.

For paraplegics, for example, doctors recommend that you consume 1,500 calories per day.

For quadriplegics, doctors recommend you consume 1,250 calories a day. Getting cardio and weightlifting is also something they mention, but they never tell you exactly how much you should be doing.

This is why the new scientific exercise guidelines for adults with spinal cord injuries, co-released by both the University of British Columbia and Loughborough University in the UK is such a breath of fresh air for people with spinal cord injuries. Finally, after a century and more of modern medicine, professionals have collaborated to decide on exactly how people with spinal cord injuries should exercise.

It wasn't an easy process. It took nearly 18 months and reaching out to dozens of organizations, individuals, and professionals affiliated with spinal cord injuries. Well-known nonprofits that are dedicated to people with spinal cord injuries, the Rick Hansen Institute and the Peter Harrison Centre for Disability Sport, were also heavily involved in the study, trying to come to a consensus on the best exercise guidelines for people living with paralysis.

The universities and the nonprofits together reached out to spinal cord injury professionals and people living with spinal cord injuries to discover the best methods of exercise for people with SCI. They came to a consensus on the exercise guidelines for people ages 18-64 living with chronic spinal cord injury. It's not all too surprising what they found.

Their guidelines look at the minimum thresholds for achieving cardiorespiratory fitness, muscle strength, and cardiometabolic health. To achieve the minimum in cardiorespiratory fitness and muscle strength, adults with a spinal cord injury should engage in at least 20 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic exercise at least two times per week. In addition, they should complete three sets of strength training exercises for each major function muscle group, at a moderate to vigorous intensity, at least two times per week.

For cardiometabolic health, the guidelines suggest that adults with spinal cord injuries should engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic exercise at least three times per week. While cardiorespiratory and cardiometabolic health sound similar, they are different. Cardiorespiratory exercises help your respiratory system, and cardiometabolic exercises help with heart health.

Now that these exercise guidelines are available to the public, the researchers behind these guidelines would like to work more with end-users, as well as clinicians, to discover the best way to help people in real life. Researchers are also excited to have more consumer engagement now that these guidelines are public. Let's just hope that above all these guidelines inspire people with paralysis to get serious about working out.

Read New Scientific Exercise Guidelines

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Tiffiny Carlson

Written by Tiffiny Carlson

Since 1998, Tiffiny Carlson has been a prolific commentator on all things SCI in a number of prominent magazines, blogs and websites. Hailing from Minnesota, she was the SCI Columnist for New Mobility Magazine for 13 years and she currently works as the Executive Director of SPINALpedia, one of the leading websites for people with SCI to share videos and stories. She has been a C5-6 quadriplegic since a diving accident 24 years ago. Tiffiny has also been a fierce advocate for SCI research. In 2016, the Morton Paralysis Fund honored her for her work. While all SCI topics interest her, dating, love and the business of relationships have always been where her passion lies the most.

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