Damage to the spinal cord can, depending on its severity, have a lasting and life-changing impact on the individual. People who have a spinal cord injury (SCI) have to contend with lack of mobility but may also suffer from other health issues that can arise as a result of the injury, including obesity, higher blood sugar levels and a greater risk of cardiovascular disease.
A big challenge for spinal cord injury patients can be attempting to stay as active and healthy as possible. The good news is that, even after an SCI, regular exercise can have a huge impact on the individual’s health and will certainly help reduce the risk of additional problems such as putting on weight and potentially developing diabetes.
There may well be many hurdles to overcome and it’s important for the individual to understand what they are capable of and to set realistic goals before attempting to exercise following a spinal cord injury.
There’s no doubt that exercise on a regular basis has enormous benefits. This is true for everyone, including those with a disability.
Health-wise, being more active means that an individual’s weight will be better managed, their cholesterol levels won’t spike and it may also decrease the chance of developing heart disease. Taking part in group exercise activities means that they may also be less isolated and less likely to suffer from mental health issues.
The general recommendation is that we should all be doing around 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise which gets us breathing heavy or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise. Most people will undertake a mixture of the two depending on their ability and preferences.
Ideally, we all should be including three types of exercise to help improve and maintain our overall fitness. This is no different for individuals with spinal cord injuries, in fact in some cases, it may be even more important.
Lifting weights to target the muscles that an individual with a spinal cord injury is still able to control is important for maintaining muscle mass. Weight training can be done at home. It’s not necessary to visit a gym. Training with a couple of dumbbells or even moderately heavy household items will do the trick.
Aerobic exercise is great for overall lung and heart health, especially if it’s performed to the point whereby the individual is out of breath and sweating to an extent. Each session should include a warm up and warm down to avoid further injury.
It’s not just physical effort that is important to overall health. Any exercise after a spinal cord injury that stretches the body is good. Many areas of the body such as the shoulders and arms can get tight after a SCI, and a regular stretching routine will help prevent this. and improve flexibility.
Of course, there are more things to bear in mind when exercising with a spinal cord injury and there may be several issues to overcome.
However this should certainly not be a deterrent which stops the individual from pursuing exercise. It is essential that a discussion is made with a medical professional, in order to create a safe and effective exercise plan and prevent exacerbating the individual’s injury or causing new injuries.
Here are just a few issues to consider:
The type of exercise that should be undertaken by an individual with a spinal cord injury may be determined by the type of injury and the extent of the damage that has been sustained. The good news is that many common exercise options can be tailored to suit the needs of the individual in question.
In general, adjustments may need to be made to allow an individual with a spinal cord injury to exercise safely and effectively. For example, straps may be required to improve stability and cuffs may be needed to help grip equipment.
The benefits of regularly exercising are numerous, and this is true for everybody. Not only will regular sessions improve overall fitness and lower the risk of heart disease, but they can also have a profound impact on mental health and overall happiness.
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