New Guidelines Set Fitness Standards For Spinal Cord Injured

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Governments around the globe encourage their citizens to meet minimum levels of physical activity to maintain health. Yet, standards for those with spinal cord injury (SCI) have generally been absent - until now. An international committee headed by a University of British Columbia researcher has recently released exercise guidelines for this particular group. It's a positive stride forward in helping improve the quality of life for those who face more barriers to health and fitness than the general population.

Physical Fitness Recommendations For SCI Populations

The researchers included participants from North America and Europe. The team examined over 200 studies to develop standardized guidelines. They looked at how exercise impacts SCI patients' bodies in a variety of areas, such as the heart, bones, muscles and respiratory system.

While the World Health Organization recommends a weekly 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise for the general population, the research committee found the following to be beneficial to those with SCI:

  • Three sets of strength training on major muscle groups twice weekly
  • 20 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic exercise twice weekly for general fitness, but 30 three times weekly to improve cardio-metabolic health

Helping SCI Populations Overcome Barriers To Fitness

Transportation is one of the first challenges that SCI patients face in maintaining physical fitness. But once the problem actually getting to a facility is overcome, they may still encounter problems of accessibility and staff that lack training in working with SCI individuals. Yet, positive trends may yet develop.

Approximately six Canadian gyms currently serve SCI clients exclusively. Others are beginning to introduce equipment such as arm bikes to allow SCI members to benefit from aerobics and spin classes along with non-SCI members.

The guidelines are an exciting development that SCI populations can now use to pursue optimal physical health, fitness and quality of life.


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