Exercise, paralysis and the potential health benefits of downhill four wheeled mountain bikes
The ultimate goal of comprehensive rehabilitation in individuals with spinal cord injury and other neurological impairments has shifted over time from an extension of their life expectancy to attainment of an optimal level of independent living and quality of life. The most common benefits of exercise are biological in nature. They target a reduction in secondary impairments (loss of cardiorespiratory, and muscular function, metabolic alterations and systemic dysfunctions). This in turn helps minimise the development of disabilities and the appearance of such handicaps as loss of mobility, physical dependence and poor social integration. Quality of life is closely associated with independent living and, increasingly, it is a key outcome in the success of exercise, rehabilitation, life-satisfaction and quality of life(1)
The health benefits of mountain cycling are well known and provide a positive effect on physical fitness addressing potential secondary impairments as described above but are only accessible to individuals who are not neurologically impaired and fortunate enough to access ‘off road’ environments. Research also suggests that the effects of off road cycling or mountain biking produces positive effects on bone mineral density in the spine due to the dynamic loading and rapid changes of direction on the body during the exercise. This effect is not inherent to road cycling(2).
Downhill four wheel mountain bikes enable individuals who are affected by paralysing conditions to access the same environments in the same way that mountain biking offers. It is likely that the inclusion of such an activity will see improvements in an individual’s cardio respiratory fitness, core stability, general muscular strength, metabolism and bone density. The Downhill four wheeled experience also has the potential to address mental illness. The strongest evidence suggests that physical activity and exercise probably alleviate some symptoms associated with mild to moderate depression, improve self-image, social skills, and cognitive functioning and reduce the symptoms of anxiety. The downhill experience has the potential to offer a positive physical and mental stimulus accessible to all and a truly exhilarating outdoor adventure.
1.Noreau L, Shephard RJ
Department of Physiotherapy, Laval University, Quebec, Canada.
Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.) [1995, 20(4):226-250]
2. Warner SE, Shaw JM, Dalsky GP.
Department of Exercise and Sport Science, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0920, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org