Good food and exercise …research aims to establish and implement programs to aid SCI health.

We all know that good food is important …..lots of green vegetables, salads and fresh fruit.  I met an aged tortoise that reminded me of that fact recently at Singapore Zoo but there is another important factor to human longevity – exercise!

Eating greens

“Exercise” You say?

The importance of exercise and the best ways to implement activity are being addressed in a UK Department of Health Study. A lead researcher at the University of Bath, Tom Nightingale, explained: “One of the best ways to reduce the risk of chronic diseases is to become more physically active, but for wheelchair users with spinal cord injuries achieving this can be more complex. We want to understand more about the impact of regular moderate intensity-exercise for these people and to devise new programmes that can help promote physically active.

There are around 3 million wheelchair users in the USA and approx 5 million wheelchair users in the European Union with probably over 12 million wheelchair users worldwide and as a result of inactivity lifestyle diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease are more likely to occur in this vulnerable group and at an earlier age. Promoting exercise with resulting better health in this large group would have a beneficial impact; physically, mentally and economically.

There is a tendency to reduce exercise if it causes pain or if exercise just gets too arduous; finding the time, having a carer to assist or just having local accessible activities. I want to address this issue with Emily, using exercise to break the unhealthy relationship between disability and weight gain.

Emily and I have found that exercise has to be a scheduled in our day. We aim to enjoy our yoga, stretch or swimming session because we have ample time allocated. The equipment we use is readily available in all good sports shops.

Exercise equipment

Emily and I have adapted particular sports to accommodate her abilities. It takes trial and error but we have enjoyed the process and we both benefit from our efforts.

Swimming aids

We keep our program simple and our aims are similar whether swimming or enjoying  a yoga session;

  • Full range of motion in all joints, start head and move to toe.
  • We stretch the whole body, addressing the body as a complete entity.
  • Deep breathing, inhale and on the exhale extending a stretch
  • Strengthening without tiring her overused muscles
  • Make use of parks with accessible pathways to exercise outdoors
  • Maintain a variety of activities; ice skate, hand cycle, bowling, sail-ability
  • SCIA Walk On Program
  • Keep it fun

Reducing the risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease is a priority, diet and exercise are pivotal to achieving that. I welcome the UK research as it is seeking to gain statistical evidence to devise programs that help inactive people participate in exercise.  

Basically diet and exercise are a duo that have to be constantly considered in our every day schedules. As a carer I benefit as much as Emily from healthy eating and lots of exercise. 


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