This study sought to examine the effects of activity-based therapy (ABT) on neurologic function, walking ability, functional independence, metabolic health, and community participation. Participants took part in a total of 9h/wk of ABT for 24 weeks including developmental sequencing; resistance training; repetitive, patterned motor activity; and task-specific locomotor training. Algorithms were used to guide group allocation, functional electrical stimulation utilization, and locomotor training progression. Neurologic function (International Standards for Neurological Classification of Spinal Cord Injury); walking speed and endurance (10-meter walk test, 6-minute walk test, and Timed Up and Go test); community participation (Spinal Cord Independence Measure, version III, and Reintegration to Normal Living Index); and metabolic function (weight, body mass index, and Quantitative Insulin Sensitivity Check). Significant improvements in neurologic function were noted for experimental in comparison to the control groups (International Standards for Neurological Classification of Spinal Cord Injury total motor score [5.1±6.3 vs 0.9±5.0; P=.024] and lower extremity motor score [4.2±5.2 vs −0.6±4.2; P=.004]). Significant differences between experimental and control groups were seen for 10-meter walk test speed (0.096±0.14m/s vs 0.027±0.10m/s; P=.036) and 6-minute walk test total distance (35.97±48.2m vs 3.0±25.5m; P=.002).
ABT has the potential to promote neurologic recovery and enhance walking ability in patients with chronic, motor-incomplete SCI. However, additional analysis is needed to determine for whom ABT is going to result in meaningful clinical benefits.