It can be a very long, challenging road for many who suffer from spinal cord injuries. New treatment protocols come out periodically but at the end of the day, their effectiveness will depend upon the benefits they bestow.

When it comes to spinal cord injury (SCI) patients who are ambulatory, there is some promise being shown by incorporating high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts into physical therapy routines. Researchers from McMaster University’s kinesiology department have been studying the effects of HIIT on SCI victims alongside American and British counterparts, and have seen some positive results.

How does high intensity interval training work?

HIIT “generally combine[s] short bursts of intense exercise with periods of rest or lower-intensity exercise.” Maximizing health benefits in reduced time is something almost anyone would prefer, but for those who struggle with mobility, it could be especially helpful.

This form of exercise helps to:

  • Build endurance
  • Improve heart health
  • Increase lung capacity
  • Burn fat
  • Change your metabolism

The goal is to reach 80% of your maximum heart rate capacity, which varies based on the individual.

How could HIIT benefit spinal cord injury victims?

Individuals who have sustained spinal cord injuries are more easily susceptible to health risks that result from decreased physical activity, including muscle atrophy, weight gain, and an increased risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. Other health risks include increased susceptibility to infection, the development of bedsores, and impacted bowels. Regular exercise can help reduce the risk of some of the conditions.

SCI patients also require a certain amount of physical activity to regain maximum mobility. Audrey Hicks, a professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University and a co-lead author of the study, explained that SCI patients have a full schedule of activities when they are undergoing rehabilitation: “During this time, the patient’s days are extremely full, with physiotherapy, occupational therapy, functional training and exercise training, all with the goal of optimizing transition to the community. The time demands are enormous, so more efficient forms of exercise can be particularly attractive.”

It’s also working. HIIT workouts have shown improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness in SCI patients, who are better able to tolerate these types of workouts. Studies have not yet been conducted for SCI patients with limited mobility. Per Hicks, “It is important to encourage more research to be done to establish safe guidelines for its implementation in this population.”

Our Los Angeles spinal cord injury attorneys put our legal talents to work helping families move forward. If you or a loved one sustained a spinal cord injury as a result of someone else’s negligence, McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP can help. Schedule a free case evaluation in our office by calling 310-474-1582, or by reaching out to us through our contact page to tell us your story.