In From our Director, News & Blog, SCI BC News, SCI Research

We live in a golden age of quackery in which we are constantly bombarded by fake news and bogus “science.” So how do we know which guidelines to trust?

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We live in a golden age of quackery in which we are constantly bombarded by fake news and bogus “science.” It is harder than ever to discern what is real from what isn’t, from what is valid, evidence-based information from what is predatory, made up information presented in ways that trick us into believing it is credible and trustworthy. What this does is make valid and trusted information from credible sources even more valuable. But mining for such information yields far more fool’s gold than the real deal.

Thanks to the Internet and less than diligent media outlets, modern snake oil sales have gained unprecedented strength in many sectors. For example:

  • In the lucrative world of cosmetics and anti-aging products, one needs to look no further than Gwenth Paltrow’s Goop (be sure to read Tim Caulfield’s awesome book, Is Gwenth Paltrow Wrong about Everything and watch his new series, Cheating Death).
  • From whacky diets to nutritional supplements to detox treatments, quackery is also exceptionally strong in nutrition and personal health.
  • Untested stem cell treatments and other BS miracle “cures” prey upon the hope and desperation of people with serious medical conditions.

I could go on, but I’ll stop with fitness and exercise, for which there is no end of evidence-less products, classes, and regimens.

Why stop with exercise and fitness? Because there is some good news to share! As of this week, the world now has evidence-based exercise guidelines for people with spinal cord injuries that were developed through a scientifically valid and collaborative process involving leaders in this area of research, SCI community organizations (including SCI BC), and people with SCI.

The world now has evidence-based exercise guidelines for people with spinal cord injuries that were developed through a scientifically valid and collaborative process involving leaders in this area of research, SCI community organizations (including SCI BC), and people with SCI.

Not so long ago, SCI Action Canada, under the leadership of then McMaster Professor, Dr. Kathleen Martin Ginis, developed evidence-based exercise guidelines for people with spinal cord injuries. This was an incredibly important development for many reasons. With so much misinformation about exercise and fitness for the general public, it is hard enough to sift through the crap to find what has been proven to be effective for improving health and fitness. But, even when valid, evidence-based information was found, it was totally unclear as to how it related to people with spinal cord injuries.

The trouble with extrapolating exercise guidelines developed for the general population to people with spinal cord injuries is that spinal cord injury affects people’s physiology in ways that can render the general guidelines inappropriate for them. Add on the fact that spinal cord injury is not the same in everyone – different levels and completeness of injuries have profoundly different impacts on different people – means making the application of general exercise guidelines for all people with SCI all the more challenging.

Luckily, SCI researchers have continued to be interested in the effects of exercise on people with SCI, enough so that the SCI Action Canada team was prompted to lead a project to expand the guidelines with new information and for an international audience.

Now at UBC Okanagan, Dr. Martin Ginis and her team carried out an extensive, rigorous, and collaborative scientific process involving international researchers and community partners. SCI BC is proud to have been included as a community partner in this process.

SCI Fitness Guidelines What was achieved is an updated and now international set of evidence-based exercise guidelines for people with spinal cord injuries. Unlike so many exercise guidelines for the general population, which set out optimal exercise requirements, the SCI exercise guidelines present minimal amounts and types of exercise that have been demonstrated to have positive effects on health and fitness. This is important because minimum guidelines present more readily achievable targets for people.

But, the problem with guidelines is that they, in of themselves, don’t change behaviours. To affect change, they need help, which is where community organizations like SCI BC will play an essential role.

Looking at the guidelines, I think you’ll agree that on the first glance, they don’t appear that hard to achieve. But what, exactly, is meant by “moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic exercise” and what exercise, specifically, do you need to do to achieve 20 minutes of it given the specifics of your SCI?

This is where SCI BC and others will come in. Using the newly established guidelines, we will work with our research and community partners and members to develop programs, services, and information resources that will help you and others in all regions of the province meet (and exceed) the minimum exercise guidelines.

But you don’t have to wait for the next steps in the project, the paper describing the guidelines and how they were arrived at is free to view or download. Have a look at the guidelines and think about how you can achieve them (and discuss them with your doctor or other allied health professional, as well as with your peers). Your health and fitness will thank you.

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