Objective: To investigate the prevalence of overweight/obesity and the course of the body mass index (BMI) in persons with spinal cord injury during and after inpatient rehabilitation.
Design: Multi-centre longitudinal study.
Subjects: A total of 184 persons with spinal cord injury.
Methods: BMI was determined at the start of active rehabilitation, 3 months later, at discharge, and 1, 2 and 5 years after discharge.
Results: The percentage of persons who were overweight/obese (BMI ≥ 22 kg/m2) increased over the years from 56% to 75%. The absolute BMI did not significantly increase during rehabilitation, but showed a significant increase the year after discharge from inpatient rehabilitation (p < 0.001). From examining the personal or lesion characteristics, age was the only factor that was related to the absolute BMI. BMI increased by 1 kg/m2 for each 10-year increase in age. Men, persons with paraplegia and older people had more chance of being overweight/obese compared with women, persons with tetraplegia and younger people.
Conclusion: The BMI of people with spinal cord injuries gradually increases during and after inpatient rehabilitation, with significant increases in the first year after discharge. It is recommended that emphasis is placed on weight-management protocols (diet and exercise) to encourage a healthy lifestyle.