Benefits of participating in a Lakeshore research study

Lakeshore is known internationally for its sports, recreation, aquatics, fitness and advocacy work. It’s also a world-class research organization. The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Health Professions and Lakeshore Foundation are proud to be the home of the UAB/Lakeshore Research Collaborative. Faculty, staff and students from UAB work with Lakeshore and other community organizations to develop and evaluate new programs and technology to promote physical activity for people with a disability.

The research has a global impact, but the Collaborative relies on Lakeshore and community members to be involved.

WD Foster is among them. A longtime Lakeshore member, he has participated in four research projects aimed at developing more effective nutrition and fitness programs for people with spinal cord injuries.

WD Foster cycles around Lakeshore’s indoor track.

An Army veteran, retired police officer and life-long fitness fanatic, Foster injured his spinal cord 10 years ago, and became paralyzed from the waist down. Since then, it’s been a challenge for him to maintain a healthy weight and improve his upper-body strength.

Through his participation in two different research studies, Foster learned simple ways to cut poor choices from his diet. “I thought I was eating healthy before, but I found out that some of the foods I enjoyed weren’t actually that good for me.”

He also learned new cardio exercises and developed a regular workout routine that helped him lose 35 pounds and build strength.

Prior to his injury, WD was an avid weight lifter who could easily bench-press 260 to 300 pounds. He set the goal to get back to bench-pressing 200 pounds. By learning how to safely and gradually increase his upper-body strength, Foster worked his way up to benching 250 pounds.

“I really blew that goal away,” he says. “And I worked my way up to doing 45 to 60 minutes of cardio every day. I didn’t think it was possible!”

Other benefits of participating

One of the highlights of the Research Collaborative is the seamless transition between its research studies and Lakeshore’s daily physical activity programs. Some studies, like the one WD participated in, may look very similar to a weekly fitness class, but participation in a research study has additional perks.

Collaborative Manager Dustin Dew records data from a participant.

One benefit of participation was that WD received several Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) scans which showed how his body changed throughout the studies. These body scans measure body composition, including muscle mass and fat mass. He also enjoyed the one-on-one instruction and interaction with research staff.

“I needed someone to hold me accountable,” he says. “And sure enough, it happened! It’s been very motivating for me.”

Some studies offer compensation for participation, which can serve as the final push to get active. However, Foster says he didn’t participate because of the compensation.

Lakeshore member London Jones participates in the Active Video Gaming research study.

“By participating, you’re not just helping yourself, but you’re helping other people — people now and in the future whose lives are going to be changed from these studies”, he says.

Collaborative researchers agree and see a wide variety of participants come through the doors—many of whom aren’t necessarily fitness fanatics or have a spinal cord injury.

“Many people get involved because they know if it can help others, then it’s worth it. These studies can lead to breakthroughs that impact larger populations of people who they will never meet,” comments Program Coordinator Alex Yates.

How to get involved

It’s easy to participate in research projects at Lakeshore. You don’t have to be a member to get involved, and participation is free.

Visit the Join a Study page on the Lakeshore website to view the current studies.

Current projects include:

  • MENTOR (Mindfulness, Exercise and Nutrition To Optimize Resilience) examines how a nutrition, mindfulness and exercise program, which takes place at Lakeshore Foundation, compares to a telehealth program where the health-related information is distributed through technology. This study is for individuals diagnosed with a spinal cord injury.
  • LEADERS (Lakeshore Examination of Activity, Disability and Exercise Response Study) studies the effectiveness of a specialized exercise class on the health and function of adults diagnosed with stroke.
  • 24 START examines the benefits of a low carb or low fat diet for adults with a spinal cord injury.

“Research is part of Lakeshore’s mission to innovate,” Yates says. “We want to make sure there will always be cutting-edge programs and physical activity opportunities available for the next person who comes through the door—now and in the future.”

Interested in learning more about the UAB/Lakeshore Research Collaborative? Visit