Exercise is one of the universal keys to good health. It's good for almost everyone - especially after a neurological injury. Committing to regular exercise will transform your life.
In the 1990's the medical profession formerly recognised that physical activity is vital to the good health. It seems strange that even 2000 years ago Hippocrates strongly endorsed physical activity and nutrition as essential to good health and yet we are just starting to stress the importance of this today.
The significant things we can say are that
- People of all ages, both male and female benefit from regular physical activity
- Significant health benefits can be obtained by moderate amounts of physical activity (for example 30 minute brisk walk)
- Additional health benefits can be gained through greater amounts of physical activity
- Physical activity reduces the risk of premature mortality in gneral and of coronary heart disease, hypertension, colon cancer and diabetes in particular. Physical activity also improves mental health and the health of muscles, bones and joints.
Following injury or disease there can be lots of excuses for not exercising - lets face it, exercise can be difficult to get and inconvenient for all kinds of reasons.
The body is very efficient in following the principle of “use it or lose it”. For example, following a spinal cord injury, there is inevitably a loss of muscle function and bulk. Also the leg bones tend to become weaker and there is increased susceptibility to certain diseases that reflect inactivity. The risk of obesity, insulin resistance, type II diabetes, and coronary heart disease all increase.
These conditions have replaced infection as the major long term health issues. Of course, the higher the level of injury, the more difficult it is to exercise, remain active and keep fit for the long term.
The possibilities to exercise after spinal cord injuries are limited to either voluntary exercise with the remaining, non-paralysed, muscle groups or to performing electrically-induced exercise through stimulation of motor nerves (so called Functional Electrical Stimulation and FES Cycling).