Consequences of Not Working Out

It has been over thirteen years since breaking my neck and being diagnosed as a quadriplegic. Looking back over these past thirteen years, I never would have expected to be where I am today. I have accomplished so many things since that fateful day that I thought I would never achieve. It feels weird to say it, but my injury has really given my life purpose and meaning that I didn’t have before.

Zack Collie driving

Some of the goals I have achieved wouldn’t have been possible if my accident didn’t happen. I feel like I have done a great job at staying positive and focusing on moving forward with my life since my injury. My disability and limitations do not define me, but if I’m being honest, I have been struggling lately due to having to sit down all day and no longer getting weight bearing in my legs. I have noticed my muscles atrophying and my bones getting weaker over time. Losing muscle mass and bone strength is something I was warned about early on after my accident. You can do your best to exercise, eat healthy, and take vitamins, but these things are inevitable with a spinal cord injury.

After my injury, physical therapy was my main priority. I worked out multiple days a week and dedicated my time to getting back as much function as possible and maintaining my muscle mass. Fast forward 13 years, I have graduated with my master’s degree and started working as an associate marriage and family therapist. Work has now become my main focus in order for me to live independently and provide for myself.

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I stopped relying on government financial assistance because I am now working and earning an income, which led to the loss of my benefits. It is up to me to financially support myself. I do not work out like I used to and have noticed the negative consequences from cutting back on my workouts. I got a baclofen pump about two years ago to decrease my overwhelming body spasms so I can start driving. Driving allows me to be more independent and is something I need to do in order to get to my job. The negative side of the pump is that my body no longer spasms like it used to, which I believe helped keep the muscles in my body from atrophying. Between getting the pump, not working out as much, and not getting necessary weight bearing through my legs – these have all contributed to the increased discomfort in my body.

It was a difficult decision for me to sacrifice my physical health so that I can be independent and make a future for myself. Living with a spinal cord injury can be challenging at times, despite my best efforts to stay positive. It is almost like I can feel my body and muscles deteriorating. My posture feels like it is getting worse and I have more pain in my back and shoulders. When I was first injured, I didn’t think about the impact this injury would have on my body a decade plus later. I am now realizing the importance of physically working out and taking care of my body while living with a SCI. I know this injury isn’t going away anytime soon and I'm going to do my best to start taking better care of my body. I am never out of the fight. 

About the Author - Zack Collie

Hi, my name is Zack and I am 29 years old. In 2010, at the age of 15, I suffered a spinal cord injury and was diagnosed as a C4 quadriplegic. Thirteen years later, I have a master’s degree in counseling, I’m married and working as a mental health therapist.

Zack Collie

The opinions expressed in these blogs are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $10,000,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.