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Exercise

In addition to being essential to general health and well-being, exercise is helpful in managing many MS symptoms.

Lisa
Diagnosed in 1998

Get pumped for exercise

Research shows strength training can lessen MS symptoms.

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Publication

Exercise as Part of Everyday Life

Physical activity can be a regular part of staying healthy if you have MS. Includes tips on handling MS symptoms.

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Publication

Stretching for People with MS

Illustrated manual showing range of motion, stretching, and balance exercises for at-home program.

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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.

Exercise options

Exercise in Water

The unique qualities of water provide exceptional benefits to people with MS. Water helps people with MS move in ways they may not be able to on land.

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Resources

  • The MS Trust’s (United Kingdom) series of exercise videos for people with MS can be done in a seated or standing position to address balance, endurance, strength and flexibility.
  • 14 Weeks to a Healthier You is a free, personalized, web-based physical activity and nutrition program targeted to people with mobility limitations, chronic health conditions and physical disabilities. Created by National Center for Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD), the program can help you get moving and make healthy nutrition choices.
  • The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults with Multiple Sclerosis can help adults with mild to moderate disability, resulting from relapsing or progressive forms of MS, to improve their fitness.

     

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