Feasibility of a community-based structured exercise program for persons with spinal cord injury

Kerri A. Morgan, Kelly L. Taylor, Rachel Heeb Desai, Kimberly Walker, Susan Tucker, Carla Wilson Walker, Holly Hollingswoth, W. Todd Cade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: (1) Examine the feasibility of a community-based exercise intervention for persons with spinal cord injury and (2) compare the cardiorespiratory fitness, skeletal muscle strength, and psychosocial well-being of participants in the intervention group versus control group. Design: Community-based pilot randomized controlled trial. Setting: Accessible community-based health and wellness center. Participants: Thirty-two sedentary community-dwelling adults with any level of spinal cord injury. Interventions: Participants were randomized to a 36-session/12-week community-based exercise program (intervention; EG) or to a 36-session/12-week physical activity education group (control; CG). Outcome measures: Primary outcome measures included cardiorespiratory fitness measured by a VO2peak test, a composite score of four upper extremity musculoskeletal strength 1-repetition maximum exercises, and feasibility measured by EG participants’ adherence and exercise intensity achieved during the program. EG participants’ acceptance of the program was also evaluated using a self-reported satisfaction scale. Self-efficacy, motivation, pain, and goal performance and satisfaction were secondary outcome measures. Adherence and acceptability were also measured. Results: Fifteen participants (n = 15) completed the community-based exercise intervention and seventeen (n = 17) completed the education program. While no statistically significant differences were found, the EG experienced changes of moderate effect size in cardiorespiratory fitness, strength, motivation, and satisfaction with their goals. The EG attended, on average, two sessions per week. The community-based exercise intervention was highly accepted by and satisfying for participants to engage in. Conclusions: The EG had improvements in the two primary measures, cardiorespiratory fitness and musculoskeletal strength, following the intervention. The community-based exercise intervention was feasible and accepted by participants.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Spinal Cord Medicine
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Cardiorespiratory fitness
  • Community-based research
  • Exercise
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Strength


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