MS & Exercise
No matter what stage your multiple sclerosis (MS) is in, you can benefit from exercise. Many studies have shown that even people with advanced MS can reap the benefits of physical activity. Regular exercise can help improve:
- Heart health
- Physical strength
- Bladder and bowel function
- Feelings of fatigue and depression
- Overall attitude
- Participation in social activities
When you have multiple sclerosis, exercise doesn't have to be something intense or lengthy. Moderate exercise, like brisk walking, for 20 minutes a day can give you the same benefits as intense workouts that leave you tired and sweaty. You should base your exercise program on your unique needs, and change it every few months to avoid plateaus. And if you've heard that exercise can trigger a relapse, that's a myth. No studies have shown that exercise leads to an increase in disease activity or an MS relapse. Please remember to consult your doctor before starting any exercise program.
Find workout tips.
An important element of any fitness program is to find what works for you. That way, you're motivated to exercise regularly. Below are suggestions and videos from fitness expert Katrina Hodgson and MS specialist Dr. Barry Hendin to help ensure you're getting the most from your workout without compromising safety.
- Set goals — This can help you see more tangible benefits of exercise
- Prepare — Make sure you identify a cool, well-ventilated area to exercise, wear loose clothing, and have plenty of water on hand
- Find a partner — Exercising with a friend is fun. Plus, it helps you both commit to working out while providing motivation.
- Pace yourself — Don't leap first. Take small steps so you don't get frustrated and drop out.
- Listen to your body — During your workout, pay attention to your body, and the signals it's giving you
- Cool down — Be sure to gradually reduce the intensity as you finish exercising
- Talk to your doctor — Consult with your physician before starting any exercise program
Get moving today.
At MSActiveSource.com, you'll find many simple and challenging workouts that were created especially for people living with MS. You can do these workouts in your home or at a nearby pool. You can also request a free MS workout DVD that contains 3 different MS exercise routines. Here are some workout tools that can help you reach your fitness goals:
- A Fitness Program Instruction Booklet illustrates 3 different workout routines you can do in your home — Vitalize, Energize and Maximize. The workouts are designed for people with all ranges of MS.
- The Progress Tracker helps you track your heart rate during the workouts, and provides space to write notes as to how you're feeling.
Order Your Free Yoga DVD.
Keep your cool.
Heat sensitivity (or increased core body temperature) increases MS symptoms for about 8 out of 10 people. You may experience numbness, tingling, or blurred vision. These symptoms may not be a sign of a relapse. They may be temporary and go away once you cool down. They may limit the duration of exercise, but should not deter you from a regular exercise routine.
To overcome heat sensitivity, many people living with MS cool their bodies before exercise ("precooling") or during exercise by submerging themselves in cold water, taking a cold shower, using ice packs, or drinking cold drinks. Cooling during exercise can be done by working out in a pool or wearing a special cooling suit. Ask your doctor if you have any questions about cooling or heat sensitivity.
Make it fun. Make it challenging.
Almost everyone can find some form of physical activity that’s both challenging and fun. Whatever you choose, set realistic goals. When you have a goal in mind, it’s easier to reach it. If you don’t know where to begin, talk with your doctor about what exercises are best. Your doctor can help you decide if there are certain MS symptoms that exercise can help you with. Then you may even want to join a health club or find a personal trainer who can create an individual program for you.