Physical activity for spinal cord injuries

Impact finalist

Professor Vicky Tolfrey and Professor Kathleen Martin-Ginis - Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences (Peter Harrison Centre for Disability Sport)
An international network of researchers, clinicians, community organisations, and adults with SCI
Funded nationally via Loughborough University Catalyst Fund and the Peter Harrison Foundation, and internationally via the Rick Hansen Institute

In collaboration with partners worldwide, the research team have launched international exercise guidelines, based on gold-standard practices, for adults with a spinal cord injury (SCI).

Exercise is an important tool for improving wellbeing and enhancing independence, but many health professionals highlight a lack of clear guidance on how best to prescribe physical activity. More than 60,000 adults in the UK live with SCI, but outside elite disability sport, they are among the least active, putting many at risk of secondary health complications.  
The Loughborough team – collaborating with an international panel of researchers, clinicians, community organisations, adults with SCI, and knowledge translation specialists – jointly devised a set of exercise guidelines which were launched at the International Spinal Cord Society Annual Meeting in 2017. 
In addition to academic and news articles, infographics and Expert Statements, the guidelines have been shared via video, popular magazines and social media – greatly widening their reach and appeal. They have been warmly welcomed by healthcare professionals and users alike, and are now available in five languages on the website. 
The success of the project lies in its multinational team of people across the continuum of sport, exercise and rehabilitation. Together, they have challenged conventional thinking and delivered interventions co-produced with people with disabilities rather than for them – helping them to lead more active and fulfilling lives.