Exercise is not only safe for people with MS, it has loads of benefits too1


It’s no secret that exercise has a range of benefits for health and wellbeing, including improved quality of life, lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and other diseases, improved mental health, stronger bones and muscles, better sleep and improved mental cognition and alertness. Exercise has also been shown to help some of the symptoms of MS. Studies in people with MS have found that:

  • Exercise training twice a week can improve aerobic fitness and strength, which can help improve mobility and movement, fatigue and quality of life2
  • Strength training can improve muscle strength, gait, mood, fatigue, disease progression, functioning, falls and quality of life3
  • Resistance and endurance training over 6 months can increase strength and aerobic fitness as well as a brain protein that is important for brain health.4

 

icon_swimHow much exercise?

Exercise is safe for people with MS, and there is no evidence that exercise will cause someone to have a relapse or an adverse event.1 It is important to exercise regularly at a suitable intensity; the guidelines for people with mild-to-moderate MS recommend:2

Aerobic exercises

30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity (100 steps per minute) – 2 days per week

Strength exercises

Focussing on major muscle groups such as calf muscles, leg muscles, abdominal muscles and arm muscles

Stretching & balance

Exercises that help improve flexibility and balance are an important part of an exercise plan

icon_tipsTips for exercising:

  • Choose exercises that you enjoy and that fit into your weekly routine
  • Exercise with a friend or family member, or an exercise group
  • Walking is a great choice of aerobic exercise for people with MS, as is an exercise bike or elliptical trainer
  • If you are just starting out, begin slowly and increase the amount of exercise you do each week over 2 to 3 months
  • Use well ventilated/air-conditioned areas to reduce the effect of heat sensitivity
  • It all adds up – do shorter more frequent sessions if need be (at least 10 minutes)
  • Keep an eye on your fatigue – try and balance exercise with rest

You may be eligible for government-funded exercise physiology sessions – speak to your GP or hop online to find an accredited exercise physiologist at www.essa.org.au.

References:

  • Pilutti LA, et al. J Neurol Sci. 2014;343:3-7.
  • Latimer-Cheung AE, et al. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2013 Sep;94(9):1800-1828.
  • Cruickshank TM, et al. Medicine 2015;94:e411.
  • Wens I, et al. Eur J Neurol. 2016;23(6):1028-35.