Benefits of Physical Training for Paraplegics

The type of exercise will be determined by the type and level of injury, but the benefits of exercise are great for everyone.  People with physical disabilities often feel discourage or depressed and physical exercise can counteract these feelings.  For those who live with paralysis exercises will have the following benefits: 

  • Ability to breathe easier
  • Increased muscle strength
  • Improved circulation
  • Less body fat
  • Normalised levels of lipids in the blood
  • Assists with improving self-esteem
  • Improves immune system
  • Decreases the risk of diabetes

Physical activity can also help to reduce the risk of urinary tract infections, pressure sores and other respiratory infections.  Those with spinal cord injuries will find that being more active will ensure less secondary complications.

Tips to Consider

All exercise programmes should be individually tailored but there are some tips to consider when planning the programme.

  • Cardiovascular exercise will help with maintaining a healthy heart and an increased endurance to assist with everyday activities.
  • Lifting weights, mild to moderate weights, will help to improve muscle strength.
  • Flexibility exercises are an important part of any programme and help with maintaining joint motion and range of motion.

Exercises for Various Spinal Injuries

For those with C1 to C4 injuries exercise may prove to be more challenging, but not impossible.  Breathing exercises are very beneficial for those with higher-level spinal injuries.  Exercising neck and shoulders will help improve strength and endurance, start slow with ten shoulder shrugs twice a day and if necessary ask for help. Set goals and if you meet them, treat yourself with some Bingo Australia or other favourite activities afterwards. Range of Motion (ROM) exercises will require assistance from a helper or carer and they can lift your legs and arms above your heart to increase blood flow and heart rate.

Those with C4 and C5 injuries can do breathing and shoulder exercises, but because injuries are not as severe as above, other areas of the body can also be exercised.  Biceps can be exercised using elastic bands and shoulder blades can also receive some exercise while in a wheelchair.

For C6 to C8 injuries exercising may be possible using a gym or a fitness facility.  By using modified gloves it is possible to exercise shoulders, biceps and triceps using equipment but if there is hand movement modified gloves may not be needed.  These exercises can just as easily be done at home.

Other Considerations to Consider

Before training or changing an exercise regimen always make sure that a doctor is consulted.  Having a spinal cord injury will sometimes cause changes in the nervous system causing low blood pressure which can be a problem during exercise, especially strenuous exercise.  Demanding exercise could lead to dizziness or other problems that come with low blood pressure.

Regulation of temperature is a challenge for people with spinal injuries because it is controlled by the automatic nervous system. It is important to exercise in a temperature-controlled room and by keeping hydrated.  Exercise in a cooler environment will help with controlling sweating and stop body temperature from rising.