Functional electrical stimulation (FES)-induced leg exercise offers the potential for individuals with lower-limb paralysis to otherwise gain some benefits conferred by leg exercise. Although its original intent is to reactivate the leg muscles to produce functional upright mobility, as a rehabilitation therapy, FES-evoked exercise increases the whole-body metabolism of individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI) so that they may gain general and localized health and fitness benefits. The physiological and psychosocial responses during FES-evoked cycling, standing, rowing, leg extension, or stepping have been extensively explored for over 20 years. Some of the advantages of such exercise include augmented cardiorespiratory fitness, promotion of leg blood circulation, increased activity of specific metabolic enzymes or hormones, greater muscle volume and fiber size, enhanced functional exercise capacity such as strength and endurance, and altered bone mineral density. Positive psychosocial adaptations have also been reported among SCI individuals who undergo FES exercise. This article presents a position review of the available literature on the effects of FES-evoked exercise since the earliest date until 2007, to warrant a conclusion about the current status and potential of FES-evoked exercise for paralyzed people.
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