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Energy Cost of Physical Activities in Persons with Spinal Cord Injury


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: April 2010 - Volume 42 - Issue 4 - p 691-700
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181bb902f
Basic Sciences

Introduction: The objectives of this descriptive study were (a) to determine the energy expenditure of activities commonly performed by individuals with a spinal cord injury (SCI) and summarize this information and (b) to measure resting energy expenditure and establish the value of 1 MET for individuals with SCI.

Methods: One-hundred seventy adults with SCI were partitioned by gender, anatomical level of SCI, and American Spinal Injury Association designations for motor function. Twenty-seven physical activities, 12 recreational/sport and 15 daily living, were performed, while energy expenditure was measured continuously via a COSMED K4b2 portable metabolic system. In addition, 66 adult males with SCI completed 30 min of supine resting energy testing in a quiet environment.

Results: Results for the 27 measured activities are reported in kilocalories per minute (kcal·min−1) and V˙O2 (mL·min−1 and mL·kg−1·min−1). One MET for a person with SCI should be adjusted using 2.7 mL·kg−1·min−1. Using 2.7 mL·kg−1·min−1, the MET range for persons in the motor incomplete SCI group was 1.17 (supported standing) to 6.22 (wheeling on grass), and 2.26 (billiards) to 16.25 (hand cycling) for activities of daily living and fitness/recreation, respectively. The MET range for activities of daily living for persons in the group with motor complete SCI was 1.27 (dusting) to 4.96 (wheeling on grass) and 1.47 (bait casting) to 7.74 (basketball game) for fitness/recreation.

Conclusions: The foundation for a compendium of energy expenditure for physical activities for persons with SCI has been created with the completion of this study. In the future, others will update and expand the content of this compendium as has been the case with the original compendium for the able-bodied.

1Center for Management of Complex Chronic Care, Edward Hines Jr., VA Hospital, Hines, IL; 2College of Nursing, University of Illinois Chicago, Chicago, IL; 3Spinal Cord Injury & Disorders, Hunter Holmes McGuire VAMC, Richmond, VA; 4Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA; 5Spinal Cord Injury Center, VA Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, CA; 6Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA; and 7Research & Development Service, Edward Hines Jr., VA Hospital, Hines, IL

Address for correspondence: Eileen G. Collins, R.N., Ph.D., Research & Development (151), Edward Hines Jr., VA Hospital, 5000 S 5th Ave, Hines, IL 60141; E-mail:

Submitted for publication June 2009.

Accepted for publication August 2009.

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©2010The American College of Sports Medicine