The Benefits of Exercise for a Spinal Cord Injury

Exercise is important for all of us. It can help prevent disease, such as heart disease and diabetes. It can build muscle strength and tone and can enhance endurance and flexibility. It can also enhance your overall quality of life by reducing stress and cause you to sleep better. For someone that has suffered a Spinal Cord Injury, exercise is especially important, as establishing a wellness routine can be advantageous to staying well and maintaining functional capacity.

A proper exercise program will promote fitness,which in turn helps continue functional independence. As in any exercise program, consistency is meaningful, with three to four days a week being optimal. Some elements of the exercise program can be incorporated into a home program, such as the use of a standing frame. Other elements may require special equipment or supervision, that a specialized training center can help with.

Let’s take a look at three areas of fitness that specialized centers can assist with:

1) Muscular strength and endurance

2) Cardiovascular conditioning

3) Range of Motion

Muscular Strength and Endurance

Muscular strength and endurance are important aspects of fitness. Depending on the level and severity of the injury, adaptations can be made to the exercise program in addition as the equipment utilized.

Increasing muscular strength will allow you to increase intensities of weight,in addition as continue balance between muscular groups. This will help prevent injuries due to overuse. Increased strength will allow responsibilities such as transfers to become easier. Equipment,such as the Uppertone, Hammer Strength and free weights are examples of tools we use to increase muscular strength.

Muscular endurance is equally important, as it allows you to to lift mild to moderate amounts of weight many times. Functionally, it enables you to perform a movement for an extended period of time. This is achieved by increasing the intensity of an exercise little by little over time. The results of increased muscular endurance can be seen by being able to push a wheelchair for an extended period of time. This ability to perform multiple repetitions is also advantageous to quadriplegics in performing daily responsibilities such as feeding themselves.

Cardiovascular Conditioning Cardiovascular conditioning improves circulation and strengthens the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. A strong heart allows you to pump a larger amount of blood with fewer beats than a ineffective heart. This allows you to become more resistant to stress, heart attack, and other health problems. A healthy heart increases endurance which will allow you to meet your daily activity needs. Ways we unprotected to cardiovascular conditioning is by circuit training and interval training. This causes you to sustain heart rate and blood pressure, so that you receive the benefits of aerobic exercise.

Interval training can be performed in various combinations of work/rest intervals. Examples of aerobic conditioning equipment alternation to spinal cord injured populations are: arm/bicycle ergometers, rowing machine and treadmills (includes those alternation for wheelchair use). Cross training, across one or all of the above-mentioned pieces of equipment, allows for a variety of muscle groups to be utilized, consequently avoiding overuse injuries. It also reduces the risk of boredom by providing a more stimulating ecosystem.

Range of Motion Range of motion is meaningful to maintaining the flexibility of those with a spinal cord injury. Due to the character of the injury, many spinal cord injuries develop tightness in the shoulder, chest, wrist and hip areas. These muscles become shortened after sitting for extended periods of time without stretching. Spasticity also plays a huge role in the developing of tight muscles. Range of motion exercises are very important, as they help continue circulation to the joint and various muscle groups.

Conclusion – Wellness involves a commitment to a healthy lifestyle. Exercise is a meaningful part which will help increase the functional capacity of whose who have suffered a spinal cord injury. It also can promote self esteem and general well being.

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