Project 1 – CHOICES

Effects of Exercise Interventions on Cardiovascular Health of Individuals with Chronic Spinal Cord Injury

Does the type of exercise – upper – or lower-limb – dictate cardiovascular outcome?

There are two goals to this research—the first is to compare the fitness benefits of two types of exercise for people with SCI: passive leg exercise using body weight-supported treadmill training (BWSTT) and arm exercise using arm-cycle ergometry training (ACET). This study will use individuals with chronic motor-complete high-thoracic and cervical SCI. The second goal is to look into the economic consequences of the two types of exercise.

In BWSTT, the subject’s body weight and balance are supported by an overhead harness, while therapists manually assist with stepping movements on a treadmill. This approach has previously been used mainly to assist individuals with stroke or incomplete SCI in recovering their ability to walk. However, because it involves a large muscle mass and the cardiovascular challenge of standing, BWSTT also has exceptional potential as a means of exercise for people with complete SCI.

ACET is one of the most popular types of exercise for people with SCI. It involves cycling with the arms, against varying resistance, and for many people with SCI it is the only exercise intervention that can be performed without professional assistance.

In this study, the researchers first will determine basic fitness and metabolic data in all the subjects, who must be individuals with chronic motor-complete high-thoracic or cervical SCI. Next, they will compare the improvements brought about by BWSTT with those due to ACET.

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