Exercise for Multiple Sclerosis
Written by: Monica
Published on: January 12, 2021

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition of the central nervous system, interfering with nerve impulses within the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. It is characterised by sclerosis a Greek word meaning scars. These scars occur within the central nervous system and depending on where they develop, manifest into various symptoms.

MS affects over 25,600 in Australia and more than two million diagnosed worldwide. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40, but it can affect both the younger and older population. Roughly three times as many women have MS as men.

MS signs and symptoms may differ significantly from person to person and throughout the disease depending on affected nerve fibres’ location (1).

Symptoms often affect movement, such as:

  • Numbness or weakness in one or more limbs that typically occurs on one side of your body at a time, or your legs and trunk
  • Electric-shock sensations that arise with specific neck movements, especially bending the neck forward (Lhermitte sign)
  • Tremor, lack of coordination or unsteady gait

Vision problems are also common, including:

  • Partial or complete loss of vision, usually in one eye at a time, often with pain during eye movement
  • Prolonged double vision
  • Blurry vision

Multiple sclerosis symptoms may also include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Tingling or pain in parts of your body
  • Problems with sexual, bowel and bladder function

Scientific evidence shows that exercise improves outcomes for people with MS. These outcomes range from the cellular level to quality of life. Research has indicated that people with MS who engage in exercise have better brain health, better cognition based on information processing speed, and increased mobility and cardiovascular health. Furthermore, people with MS who engage with exercise have less fatigue, depression, anxiety, pain, and better sleep quality and quality of life (2).

Physical Activity Guidelines for adults with mild to moderate MS are 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity two days per week and strength training for major muscle groups, including the calf muscles, leg muscles, abdominal and arm muscles per week.

If you are beginning again with exercise, slowly and gradually build your exercise duration over 2 to 3 months. Break the activity into shorter bouts of 10 to 15 minutes at a time if necessary. For strength training, increase weight gradually and complete at least two sets of 10-15 repetitions of each strength training exercise. 

Aerobic exercise

  • Can be performed in a variety of settings including individual and group training sessions on land or in water
  • Can be performed on at least two days of the week
  • Walking is the number one choice of aerobic exercise by people with MS, and walking intensity can be measured by counting your steps using a pedometer
  • Use of exercise bikes and elliptical trainers is preferable to the use of a treadmill when there is a risk of tripping and falls

Walking 100 steps in a minute is moderate-intensity aerobic exercise for persons with MS (7). Build this up to achieve your 30 minutes of aerobic exercise.

Strengthening Exercises

  • Can be performed in a variety of settings including home, community centre or gym
  • Can be performed on at least two days of the week
  • Can be performed with resistance from free or machine weights; body weight, resistance bands, or water
  • Progressive resistance with high weights and low repetitions is beneficial
  • Frequent rest breaks and alternating muscle groups during training helps minimise the effect of fatigue

Stretching & Balance Exercises

  • Can be performed in a variety of settings including home, community centre or gym
  • Can be performed on most days of the week
  • Stretching exercises can be performed using gravity or resistance bands
  • Balance exercises can be achieved by challenging one regular sitting and standing posture
  • Can be useful to relieve muscle spasms and cramps
  • Can improve relaxation and sleep patterns

If you want any more information or assistance on an exercise program please reach out to us at admin@revitalizexpp.com.au, we a here to help guide you through your health and fitness journey. 

(1) https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/multiple-sclerosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350269

(2) http://exerciseismedicine.com.au/

(3) https://www.msaustralia.org.au/

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