Exercise and people with spinal cord injury

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Dr Bailey and Dr Croft

Translational Research Project Grant

Dr Daniel Bailey, University of Bedfordshire

Amount: £86,434      Duration: 20 months

The benefits of breaking up prolonged sedentary time on heart disease risk in people with spinal cord injury

Summary: This project will investigate the benefits of breaking up prolonged sedentary time with regular short bouts of exercise on heart disease risk in people with spinal cord injury.

Prolonged periods of time spent inactive and sitting increases the risk of heart disease even if the person is active at other times.   This means that even people who meet the government guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week may have a higher risk of heart disease if they spend long periods being sedentary (sitting).  Heart disease is the leading cause of death in people with spinal cord injury which may be because they are highly sedentary. 

In this project, markers of heart disease risk will be measured in 20 inactive people with spinal cord injury in the following three situations to show whether breaking up prolonged sedentary time is effective at lowering their heart disease risk:

  1. Uninterrupted sitting; volunteers remain seated in their wheelchair at a desk  for a 7-hour day
  2. Prolonged physical activity; volunteers will carry out a 40-minute bout of activity in the morning followed by uninterrupted sitting for the rest of a 7-hour day
  3. Sitting plus activity breaks; volunteers will carry out 2-minute bouts of moderate-intensity exercise every 20 minutes over a 7-hour day

During the inactive periods the volunteers will carry out desk-based activities on a computer, read, talk, or watch DVDs.  Before and during the trial, the researchers will measure each participant’s levels of blood sugar and cholesterol after eating, insulin levels and blood pressure.  These are all good indicators of heart disease risk.  Breaking up prolonged sedentary time with regular short activity breaks may be an effective way to lower the risk of heart disease in people with spinal cord injury and a simple strategy that they are more likely to take part in.  In the long term, the results will help to inform new physical activity and clinical care guidelines to reduce the risk of heart disease in people with a sedentary lifestyle including those with spinal cord injury.