CORE: Changing Minds About Functional Recovery and Long-Term Health

By Dana Lyn Guest, CORE

The field of neuro-recovery is challenging everything once believed about rehabilitation after a paralysis diagnosis. Physical therapy is no longer a one-time inpatient experience and the magic "two-year window" of hope has been shattered. Research has proven functional recovery and long-term health can be improved upon through Activity Based Training and people living with paralysis are seeking more services in their local communities and beyond to achieve goals once thought impossible. Is Activity Based Training a cure? Simply put, no. However, it is optimizing health and helping people regain abilities.

Adaptive Gym is on the Cutting-Edge of Neuro-Rehabilitation

Adaptive Gym is on the Cutting-Edge of Neuro-Rehabilitation

The music is cranked and the energy thrums through the Center Of Recovery & Exercise, also known as CORE, in Orlando, Florida on a rainy Thursday afternoon. At first glance, it appears just like any other gym across the country with mirrors and all types of exercise equipment lining the walls, as well as a training team clad in black assisting clients. Upon a deeper look though, these are not your average gym rats. They are wheelchair users diagnosed with spinal cord injuries or other neurological conditions resulting in paralysis. Yet, they are working just as hard, if not harder than most athletes. And the exercise equipment just so happens to be some of the most advanced technology in the world of neuro-rehabilitation. CORE is anything but average.

Going beyond traditional physical therapy, the main components of Activity-Based Training at CORE encompass the principles of weight bearing activities, functional electrical stimulation, core strengthening, locomotor training and massed practice to customize each client program. CORE also offers indoor aquatic training, as well as coach-led adaptive fitness classes that focus on strength and conditioning.

"Instead of sitting back and waiting for a scientific cure, we look at what we can do now to help people fight for better recovery outcomes, more independence and an overall improved quality of life," says CORE's Executive Director, Malerie Robinson. "The first goal for anyone rolling through our doors is to remove them from the wheelchair environment. Bodies are made to be in motion to function properly."

Changing Minds and Changing Lives

In the last decade, research has demonstrated that neuroplasticity allows the brain and spinal cord to adapt and recover functions affected by injury. The spinal cord can reassign affected functions through spared neural pathways. However, individuals must repetitively stimulate the spinal cord by practicing weakened movements.

CORE program

This year CORE celebrated eleven years of providing an Activity Based Training program to the paralysis community, with some clients traveling from other states and even countries to participate. Still, the education, perception and understanding of what Activity Based Training can mean for patients has been a gradual development in the medical world. Research finally has time on its side with multiple published benefits ranging from improvements in mobility, upper limb function, neurological status, body composition, bowel and bladder function and mental health improvements, along with a reduction in cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors.

Alongside CORE, fellow like-minded facilities around the country have popped up to challenge the medical field on the best methods for recovery and the prevention of secondary medical complications after paralysis. With these advancements, CORE has seen the support grow from the local medical community and strives to keep bridging the gap in the continuum of care.

"We have clients coming to us fresh out of their inpatient stays and we have clients who are twenty years plus post-injury. Some may be more recovery focused and some may be more about living longer, more productive and as healthy as possible lives. Whatever their individual goals are, we listen and we tailor a program to their needs," says Robinson.

PWDs Leverage their Activity Based Training to Live Full Lives

PWDs Leverage their Activity Based Training to Live Full Lives

Clients at CORE lead busy lives, with most either still employed, in school, involved in the community or raising young families. Still, on average, clients manage to set aside the time to train two to three hours per week. Many supplement their programs with CORE's group fitness classes or various other outside therapies, which the CORE team fully supports. The results speak for themselves. Visit CORE's Facebook and Instagram pages to see an array of individuals with a variety of neurological conditions, all levels, ages and abilities demonstrating their feats inside and out of the gym. They are not just surviving, they are thriving.

CORE Exercise

"It is amazing when a client applies their training at CORE to achieve dreams that positively impact their daily lives. For example, when our T-5 client finally feels strong enough to get his driver's license, or our C-3 client gains the confidence in CORE's pool to get in their pool at home for the first time, or when our C-6 client moves into her college dorm and lives independently; these achievements are what motivates our clients and training team to keep going," says Robinson.

Watch Erin, CORE Spinal Cord Injury Client, in Action

For more information on CORE and Activity Based Training, please visit or call 407-951-8936. The CORE Team will also be at Booth 419 at the Abilities Expo in Miami on November 4-6, 2022!

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