UAB scientist receives NIH grant to explore how exercise can help cardiometabolic health in spinal cord injury patients

School of Education Associate Professor Gordon Fisher will assess the benefits of home-based, telehealth, high-intensity interval exercise for improving cardiometabolic health in people with longstanding spinal cord injuries.
Written by: Tehreem Khan
Media contact: Brianna Hoge

Head shot of Dr. Gordon Fisher, PhD (Assistant Professor, Human Studies), 2017.A University of Alabama at Birmingham researcher has received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate if home-based, high-intensity interval exercise training can improve cardiometabolic health in patients with longstanding spinal cord injury.

Gordon Fisher, associate professor of kinesiology in the School of Education’s Department of Human Studies has previously shown promising results for HIIT to improve health and fitness in young adults and individuals with obesity. However, whether these results can translate to individuals with SCI remains to be determined. 

In a pilot grant funded by the UAB/Lakeshore Research Collaborative, Fisher found that as few as two days per week of HIIT arm crank exercise improved many components of cardiovascular and metabolic health, similarly to individuals’ performing moderate-intensity, continuous arm crank exercise that requires 60 percent more time commitment each week.

“It was difficult to enroll participants due to the many challenges that individuals with SCI face trying to travel to a gym or rehab facility; thus we decided to look into telehealth training options in order to reach more individuals and create an opportunity to exercise from home,” Fisher said. “This may lead to greater participation, adherence, ease and enjoyment in individuals with SCI.”

Fisher’s earlier research, demonstrating that as few as two days per week of arm crank exercise performed at higher intensities is safe and beneficial for individuals with SCI, provided the groundwork for the newly funded NIH grant.

“Results from this study will determine feasibility, overall enjoyment and health impact of implementing a home-based telehealth program, reaching more individuals with SCI,” Fisher said.