Developing physical activity guidelines for people with spinal cord injury

Developing physical activity guidelines for people with spinal cord injury

Researchers from the NCSEM-EM together with international colleagues from Canada are developing physical activity guidelines to inform people with spinal cord injury how much exercise to do and how often.

Studies have shown that people with spinal cord injury are among the most physically inactive and deconditioned individuals compared to the general population. Beneficial physical effects of exercise are limited due to muscle paralysis and an impaired nervous system, while people with spinal cord injury also face many challenges and barriers to physical activity participation.

Loughborough University academics from the NCSEM-EM and the Peter Harrison Centre for Disability Sport (PHC), along with a Canadian team led by Professor Kathleen Martin-Ginis, are building on previous bodies of work to form an evidence-based approach to physical activity guidelines, developed through engaging with international researchers, clinicians and people who are living with spinal cord injury.

The outcome of this work will be a set of guidelines around the types of exercises that are effective and advice on the frequency, intensity and duration of the exercise, with the ultimate goal to improve fitness and health.

The process so far

A series of consensus panels have taken place both here and overseas with European, American and Australian academics, as well as clinicians and people with spinal cord injury. The panels reviewed all available literature evidence to reach a consensus on what should be recommended for the guidelines.

After the successful expert panel meetings, the team presented its work at the ISCOS (International Spinal Cord Society) Annual Scientific Meeting 2016 in Vienna, where the guideline development process was deliberated with international colleagues dedicated to clinical practice, community work and research for people with spinal cord injury.

There was strong agreement that guidelines are important to help facilitate physical activity promotion, that consistency across countries is key and that the guidelines should be based on the minimum activity required to achieve health and fitness benefits.

Next steps

A final consensus around the scientific guidelines will be agreed upon towards the end of 2016.

Each country will work with partners including spinal injury charities, disability sport organisations, rehabilitation units and people with spinal cord injury to tailor the guidelines locally and determine the most suitable format and methods of distributing them to most effectively reach those who would benefit.