Rowing exercise increases cardiorespiratory fitness and brachial artery diameter but not traditional cardiometabolic risk factors in spinal cord-injured humans

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  • Rasmus Kopp Hansen
  • Afshin Samani
  • Uffe Laessoe
  • Aase Handberg
  • Maiken Mellergaard
  • Krystian Figlewski
  • Dick H J Thijssen
  • Gliemann, Lasse
  • Ryan Godsk Larsen
Purpose: This study assessed the effects of upper-body rowing exercise on cardiorespiratory fitness, traditional cardiometabolic risk factors, and vascular health in individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI).

Methods: Seventeen male and female adults with chronic (> 1 yr) motor-complete and incomplete SCI (level of injury: C4-L3) were randomized to control (CON, n = 9) or exercise (UBROW, n = 8). Participants in UBROW performed 12-week, 3 weekly sessions of 30-min upper-body ergometer rowing exercise, complying with current exercise guidelines for SCI. Cardiorespiratory fitness (V˙
O2peak), traditional risk factors (lipid profile, glycemic control) as well as inflammatory and vascular endothelium-derived biomarkers (derived from fasting blood samples) were measured before and after 6 (6W) and 12 weeks (12W). Brachial artery resting diameter and flow-mediated dilation (FMD) were determined by ultrasound as exploratory outcomes.

Results: UBROW increased V˙O2peak from baseline (15.1 ± 5.1 mL/kg/min; mean ± SD) to 6W (16.5 ± 5.3; P < 0.01) and 12W (17.5 ± 6.1; P < 0.01). UBROW increased resting brachial artery diameter from baseline (4.80 ± 0.72 mm) to 12W (5.08 ± 0.91; P < 0.01), with no changes at 6W (4.96 ± 0.91), and no changes in CON. There were no significant time-by-group interactions in traditional cardiometabolic blood biomarkers, or in unadjusted or baseline diameter corrected FMD. Explorative analyses revealed inverse correlations between changes (∆12W-baseline) in endothelin-1 and changes in resting diameter (r = − 0.56) and FMD% (r = − 0.60), both P < 0.05.

Conclusion: These results demonstrate that 12 weeks of upper-body rowing complying with current exercise guidelines for SCI improves cardiorespiratory fitness and increases resting brachial artery diameter. In contrast, the exercise intervention had no or only modest effects on traditional cardiometabolic risk factors.
The study was registered at (N-20190053, May 15, 2020).
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Physiology
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1241-1255
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2023

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Science - Cardiorespiratory fitness, Exercise training, Spinal cord injury, Metabolic health, Vascular function, Flow-mediated dilation


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