UBC Okanagan-led research breaks barriers for people living with SCI

Key to success for individuals with spinal cord injuries is partnership and collaboration

UBC Okanagan research has led to ground-breaking increases in physical activity and fitness for individuals living with a spinal cord injury.

Jasmin Ma, a recent doctoral graduate of the School of Health and Exercise Sciences, along with her supervisor, Prof. Kathleen Martin Ginis, explored a time-efficient physical activity-coaching program designed through community collaboration in a first-of-its-kind study published in Sports Medicine.

“The foundation of the project’s success is the networked approach,” Ma said. “Health professionals, peers, researchers and especially people living with SCI are all part of the development story.”

Over the course of three years, Ma worked with more than 300 people with a spinal cord injury (SCI) to explore their physical activity experiences. The results showed a five-fold increase in activity for participants.

And those levels of activity were maintained by the participants when she checked in six months after the controlled trial.

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“Some of our participants have gone on to act as physical activity champions within their own networks,” Ma said. “Two of these outstanding individuals started the South Fraser Active Living Group and are working with Spinal Cord Injury BC to push the boundaries for accessible physical activity opportunities outside of Vancouver.”

With seven-years experience under her belt training clients with disabilities, Ma understood the barriers her clients face during exercise. By tailoring programs specifically for each client, she was able to find the solutions to overcome these hurdles.

“The first step is asking the right question,” Ma said.

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Supervising Prof. Martin Ginis said the study will provide strong evidence for continued community-engaged research.

“The partnership with the SCI community and physiotherapists has resulted in a study that will improve the lives of people with spinal cord injury,” said SCI Action Canada lab director Martin Ginis, which focuses on community-engaged research to advance physical activity participation in people living with spinal cord injury.”

“This study is a great step forward to collaborative community-engaged research,” she said.

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