Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2009 Aug;90(8):1379-88.

A randomized controlled trial on the effects of cycling with and without electrical stimulation on cardiorespiratory and vascular health in children with spinal cord injury.

Johnston TE, Smith BT, Mulcahey MJ, Betz RR, Lauer RT.

Department of Physical Therapy, University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.

OBJECTIVE: To examine the cardiorespiratory/vascular effects of cycling with and without functional electrical stimulation (FES) in children with spinal cord injury (SCI). DESIGN: Randomized controlled trial. SETTING: Pediatric referral hospital. PARTICIPANTS: Children with SCI (N=30), ages 5 to 13 years, with injury levels from C4 to T11, and American Spinal Injury Association grades A, B, or C. INTERVENTIONS: Children were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups: FES leg cycling exercise, passive leg cycling, or noncycling control group receiving electrical stimulation therapy. After receiving instruction on the use of the equipment, children exercised for 1 hour 3 times per week for 6 months at home with parental supervision. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Oxygen uptake (Vo(2)) during an incremental arm ergometry test, resting heart rate, forced vital capacity, and a fasting lipid profile. RESULTS: There were no differences (P>.05) between groups after 6 months of exercise when comparing pre- and postvalues. However, there were differences between groups for some variables when examining percent change. The FES cycling group showed an improvement (P=.035) in Vo(2) (16.2%+/-25.0%) as compared with the passive cycling group (-28.7%+/-29.1%). For lipid levels, the electrical stimulation-only group showed declines (P=.032) in cholesterol levels (-17.1%+/-8.5%) as compared with the FES cycling group (4.4%+/-20.4%). CONCLUSIONS: Cycling with FES led to gains in Vo(2), whereas electrical stimulation alone led to improvements in cholesterol.