Study design: Single-group pre-test post-test study.
Objectives: Examine the change in (1) fitness and body composition due to self-guided training in preparation for the HandbikeBattle in people with spinal cord injury (SCI); and (2) whether these possible body composition changes are associated with changes in fitness.
Setting: Handcycling teams of Dutch rehabilitation centers training for the HandbikeBattle, a handcycling race on an Austrian mountain.
Methods: Fitness (peak power output (POpeak) determined during a graded handcycling exercise test) and body composition (body mass, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC), %fat determined with skinfolds and fat and fat free mass (% and kg) assessed by bio-impedance analysis (BIA)) of 18 persons with SCI were evaluated before and after 4 months of training for the HandbikeBattle. The effects of training were evaluated with repeated measures ANOVA. Associations among changes in POpeak and changes in body composition were calculated with Pearson correlation coefficients.
Results: Training for the HandbikeBattle led to significant improvements in POpeak, fat mass measured by BIA (19.6 ± 9.6 kg to 18.5 ± 8.3 kg, p = 0.02), %fat measured by skinfolds (28.4 ± 7.8% to 27.2 ± 7.2%, p = 0.02), while body mass and WC approached significance (p = 0.06). Association among changes in body composition and changes in POpeak ranged from trivial (e.g., for %fat BIA r = -0.023) to moderate (e.g., for WC, r = -0.32).
Conclusions: Self-guided training for the HandbikeBattle led to a large increase in fitness but had a small effect on body composition, e.g., nutrition may play a more important role than exercise.