Randomized Trial of Two Exercise Programs to Increase Physical Activity and Health-Related Quality of Life for Persons With Spinal Cord Injury

John F. Butzer, Allan J. Kozlowski, Rachel Hern, Cally Gooch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objectives: To compare the effectiveness of two different interventions that promote physical activity in individuals with traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) and determine the effect of relapse prevention. Methods: A sequential, multiple assignment, randomized trial was conducted at a universally designed community-based exercise facility. Participants were individuals with traumatic SCI, >3 months post injury, levels C5 to T12, age ≥18 years (N = 79). After randomization, Bridge Program participants completed an 8-week personalized, less intense, exercise program informed by American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines and supported with hands-on peer mentoring, exercise of choice, and caregiver training. Structured Exercise participants completed an 8-week program in a group format based on ACSM guidelines. After intervention, participants were randomized to receive or not receive relapse prevention for 6 months. The time and intensity of physical activity and psychological change in depression, anxiety, self-efficacy, and function were assessed with self-reported measures. Results: Compared to baseline, physical activity increased post intervention for both the Bridge and Structured Exercise programs. Compared to baseline, participants in the Bridge Program recorded fewer anxiety symptoms. No significant changes were noted for either program in depressive symptoms, self-efficacy, or function. There was no difference in relapse prevention between the two groups at 6 months. Conclusions: The Bridge Program, a novel personalized exercise program with peer support, exercise of choice, and caregiver training, and a structured exercise program both improved self-reported physical activity, but the Bridge Program also reduced anxiety symptoms. This study provides important insight into the limitations of commonly used measures of physical activity and psychosocial domains in people with SCI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-60
Number of pages10
JournalTopics in Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • community participation
  • exercise
  • social participation
  • spinal cord injuries
  • therapeutic adherence


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