Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic and often disabling neurologic disease of the central nervous system that affects 23,000 people in Australia. There is currently no known cure, however there are many treatment options that can make living with MS more manageable.
Growing research suggests that exercise is an important part of managing the disease.
Unfortunately, however, people suffering from the condition are less likely to complete a structured exercise program. Read on for seven tips to ensure a safe and efficient MS oriented exercise regime.
A very common symptom of MS is sensitivity to heat, with an increase in heat often associated with an exacerbation of symptoms. To avoid this people with MS should try to avoid exercising between the hottest hours of the day (10am – 2pm), particularly in the summer months. Exercising in an indoor area with air conditioning is another way to beat the heat. To further avoid overheating wearing breathable, comfortable clothing, staying hydrated and taking frequent rests can help. Another great idea would be to bring a spray bottle to mist yourself with throughout the exercise program.
Keep Your Balance
Due to possible symptoms of MS such as impaired vision, muscle weakness and lack of coordination, those with the condition can have reduced balance and are prone to falling. Balance exercises can help reduce this risk. It is important when practicing balancing to always do so in a safe environment such as next to a wall or with something to hold on to like a rail. Definitely don’t try perform any exercises if you don’t feel safe doing so. If possible, try performing balance exercises with supervision or a friend to increase safety.
Do Cardio Everyday
Completing aerobic exercises such as cycling, walking or swimming have benefits including reducing obesity, improving sleep quality, improving quality of life, reducing depression, assisting with a regular bowl routine and improving cardiovascular health. When completing this type of exercise it is important to do what is right for you. If you are just starting out or have a low tolerance to fatigue it may be easier to exercise for three 10 min sessions or two 15 sessions initially instead of the recommended 30 mins a day. If you’re worried about your balance play it safe by using a stationary bike or swimming rather than walking on a treadmill or cycling outdoors.
Regular strength exercises will help improve weakened muscles, help improve balance and fitness and make performing everyday tasks much easier. Less specifically to MS it can also help with managing a range of other conditions including osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and back pain. If you’re feeling weak or are having problems with coordination try sitting down when performing exercises or try using machine weights instead of free weights for a safer and more effective workout.
Daily stretching and motion exercises can help reduce the severity of spasticity symptoms and can improve your flexibility, reducing the risk of injury, worsening posture and mobility.
Fatigue is the most common symptom experienced by those with MS, with many reporting it to be one of their worst symptoms. Some days you may feel better than others for a variety of reasons. If you are too fatigued to be performing your exercises you can decrease the intensity or have a break. Performing stretching and motion exercises are well suited to days when you’re experiencing high levels of fatigue.
Consult a Professional
Everyone is different, there is no one size fits all for those suffering from MS. Symptoms vary greatly, some people may have something that others never will, some days will be worse than others, and some days some symptoms may disappear all together. It is highly recommended that you are prescribed an exercise program from a professional such as an Exercise Physiologist who can give you a personalised program based on your specific health conditions to make sure you exercise safely with optimal improvement.