A study published by researchers at the University of Utah in 1996 was the first to demonstrate the benefits of exercise for people with MS. Additional studies have confirmed the benefits of exercise, including improvement in cognitive function and mood enhancement. Participants in aerobic exercise benefit from:
- better cardiovascular fitness
- improved strength
- better bladder and bowel function
- less fatigue and depression
- a more positive attitude
- increased participation in social activities
Inactivity in people with or without MS can result in numerous risk factors associated with coronary heart disease. In addition, inactivity can lead to weakness of muscles, decreased bone density with an increased risk of fracture, and shallow, inefficient breathing.
An exercise program needs to fit the capabilities and limitations of the individual, and one should consult with a physician before starting a new exercise program. A physical therapist experienced with MS can be helpful in designing, supervising and revising an exercise program which may need adjustments as MS symptoms change.
Periods of exercise should be carefully timed to avoid the hotter periods of the day and prevent excessive fatigue.
Still, exercise doesn't have to be a rigorous cardiovascular workout to provide benefits. Physical activity in general is beneficial and can include a variety of things most people can do in the comfort of their home or community, such as gardening, household chores, cooking, taking the dog out, playing with children and more.