Content » Vol 46, Issue 9

Original report

Self-reported physical activity and risk markers for cardiovascular disease after spinal cord injury

Peter Flank, Martin Fahlström, Carina Boström, John E. Lewis , Richard Levi, Kerstin Wahman
Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Rehabilitation Medicine, Umeå University, SE-90187 Umeå, Sweden. E-mail:
DOI: 10.2340/16501977-1857


Objective: To examine whether self-reported physical activity of a moderate/vigorous intensity influences risk markers for cardiovascular disease in persons with paraplegia due to spinal cord injury.
Design: Descriptive, cross-sectional study.
Subjects: A total of 134 wheelchair-dependent individuals (103 men, 31 women) with chronic (≥ 1 year) post-traumatic spinal cord injury with paraplegia.
Methods: Cardiovascular disease markers (hypertension, blood glucose and a blood lipid panel) were analysed and related to physical activity.
Results: One out of 5 persons reported undertaking physical activity ≥  30 min/day. Persons who were physically active ≥ 30 min/day were significantly younger than inactive persons. Systolic and diastolic blood pressures were lower in the physically active group. When adjusting for age, the association between systolic blood pressure and physical activity disappeared. Physical activity ≥ 30 min/day had a tendency to positively influence body mass index and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol/high-density lipoprotein cholesterol ratio. Men had significantly higher systolic and diastolic blood pressures than women, lower high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, higher low-density lipoprotein cholesterol/high-density lipoprotein cholesterol ratio and higher triglycerides. No other significant differences between men and women were found.
Conclusion: Self-reported physical activity ≥ 30 min/day in persons with spinal cord injury positively influenced diastolic blood pressure. No other reductions in cardiovascular disease risk markers were seen after controlling for age. These results indicate a positive effect of physical activity, but it cannot be concluded that recommendations about physical activity in cardiovascular disease prevention for the general population apply to wheelchair-dependent persons with spinal cord injury.

Lay Abstract


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