In addition to being essential to general health and well-being, exercise is helpful in managing many MS symptoms. 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. Those patients who participated in an aerobic exercise program benefited from:
- better cardiovascular fitness
- improved strength
- better bladder and bowel function
- less fatigue and depression
- a more positive attitude
- increased participation in social activities
Additional studies have confirmed the benefits of exercise, including improvement in cognitive function and mood enhancement.
Inactivity in people with or without MS can result in numerous risk factors associated with coronary heart disease. In addition, it 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. It may need to be adjusted as changes occur in MS symptoms. A physical therapist experienced with MS can be helpful in designing, supervising and revising an exercise program. Any person with MS who is initiating a new exercise program should also consult with a physician before starting.
Periods of exercise should be carefully timed to avoid the hotter periods of the day and prevent excessive fatigue. With some guidelines, an exercise program can help maintain good health.
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. Physical activity includes but is not limited to:
- household chores