Exercise can help reduce symptoms of multiple sclerosis, but you need to be careful if you want your exercises to work for you. Most importantly, don’t overdo it. No doubt you’ve heard the saying “no pain, no gain” or “feel the burn”, but that’s not good advice if you have Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Doing too much can strain your muscles, increase pain, and put too much strain on your body and mind. Never train to the point of exhaustion.
How Can Exercise Help With MS?
MS is a progressive inflammatory disease that damages the myelin sheaths that cover nerve cells. It is estimated that 2.3 million people worldwide have MS. Symptoms come and go over time and can include numbness or tingling in the extremities, muscle weakness, and fatigue. Regular exercise helps to keep body and mind healthy. It can reduce the risk of diseases and chronic health conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
Results from a systematic review suggest that aerobic exercise and physical therapy can improve many areas of life for people with MS, including physical symptoms, mental health, and social functioning.
For people with MS, regular exercise can help:
- Improve Mobility
- Improve Muscle Movement and Flexibility
- Improve Overall Quality of Life
- Reduce The Risk of Ms-Related Complications
- Reduce The Risk Of Cardiovascular Disease Mental Health, Such As Depression
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society notes that the benefits of exercise extend to improving cognition. Exercise can help a person overcome certain cognitive challenges associated with MS.
In general, exercise can also:
- Improve Heart Health
- Improve Lung Function
- Increase Energy Levels
- Improve Mood
- Increase Muscle and Bone Strength
Consult a physician before beginning an exercise program. They may recommend working with a physical therapist first.
The physical therapist can design a personalized exercise program based on a person’s specific symptoms and current health status. You can also teach people how to do exercises properly to avoid injury.
Types of Exercises to Try
This not only makes the heart beat faster, but also lifts the spirits. Walking, running, and cycling are good. If you have leg weakness or other movement problems, try something like rowing or water aerobics. Routes are good for anyone with MS, but most helpful when you have painful muscle spasms and stiffness. Pay special attention to muscles that tend to tighten and cramp, like quads, hamstrings, and calves. Do exercises that push your joints through their full range of motion.
Aside from regular stretching, yoga and tai chi are great ways to build strength and flexibility. They can also help you relax and fight stress. Weight training can be done if your physical therapist says it’s okay, use weights or resistance exercises to build your muscles. The stronger you are, the easier it will be to move. If you get a muscle cramp mid-workout, stop, and wait a few minutes for it to relax.
Aerobic exercise is a dynamic activity that increases your heart rate. This form of exercise is particularly good for improving lung capacity, strengthening core muscles, and improving balance and coordination.
Aerobic exercise can improve walking ability, especially if the person also does leg strength exercises. People with MS may benefit from high-intensity interval training that many reduce to HIIT. This form of aerobic exercise involves short bursts of intense physical activity and then rest. Rest periods prevent a person from overheating, which can lead to a flare-up of MS symptoms.
A study suggests that low-to-moderate-intensity aerobic exercise may provide people with MS with mild to moderate disabilities with the following benefits:
- Higher Energy Levels – Less Fatigue
- Better Mood
- Better Heart Health
- Higher Quality of Life
2) Progressive Strength Training
Strength training can improve muscle strength, posture, and balance. Fatigue due to MS can affect muscle strength and endurance, making it difficult to find an appropriate strength training program. Working with a physical therapist can help people find the exercises and methods that work best for them. People with MS may want to consider a progressive strength training program. This can help prevent overloading your muscles, which can lead to worsening symptoms. During a progressive strength training program, people start out with light weights and minimal reps. They slowly increase the amount of weight or number of reps while building more muscle over time. People can develop an individual training program with the help of a physiotherapist or personal trainer who specializes in MS.
Yoga is a mind-body practice that involves various breathing, stretching and meditation exercises. Yoga improves flexibility and strength while promoting a calm and harmonious mindset. The physical and psychological effects of yoga can benefit people with MS. Building flexibility and strength can improve MS symptoms such as stiffness, muscle weakness, and loss of mobility. People can adapt each yoga posture to their specific needs. At various locations, people can stand, sit in a chair or wheelchair, or lie on the bed or floor to perform yoga postures, breathing exercises, and meditation.
The researchers behind a small study found that yoga is one of the six most popular complementary treatments for managing MS symptoms. They found that an 8-week yoga program improved physical performance and quality of life in 14 adults with MS.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society offers some helpful tips for practicing yoga with MS. Working with a qualified yoga teacher, especially one who specializes in multiple sclerosis or adaptive yoga, can help people find the poses that work best for them.
4) Tai Chi
Adaptive Tai Chi offers a helpful and gentler alternative to yoga. This martial art focuses on deep breathing and slow, gentle movements. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, tai chi can help improve balance, lower blood pressure, and reduce stress. However, they note that studies have not specifically looked at these effects in people with MS.
5) Water sports
Water sports offer several benefits to people with MS.
The temperature of the water helps prevent the body from overheating, which can worsen MS symptoms. In addition, the feeling of aggravation in combination with subtle water resistance creates an excellent environment for exercises with a low impact.
6) Balance exercises
Balance exercises help to improve coordination. Because these low-intensity activities put minimal strain on the body, many people can do them.
Examples of MS balance exercises include:
Heel And Toe Raises
- Stand hip-width apart while holding onto a wall or railing for stability.
- Stand on tiptoe and hold the position for a few seconds. Slowly lower your feet to the floor.
- Gently shift your weight onto your heels and hold this position for a few seconds.
- Alternate between standing on your toes and rocking on your heels.
- Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart and use a wall, railing, or heavy furniture for stability.
- Lift one foot so it levitates slightly off the floor and hold it for 30 seconds. When comfortable and for an extra challenge, stretch your arms out to the sides or raise them overhead.
- Repeat this exercise with the other foot.
- First, stand up straight and balance against a wall.
- Step carefully forward, placing the heel of one foot directly in front of the toes of the other foot.
- Try walking back and forth a few steps.
1) Physical Activity
Exercise doesn’t have to be rigorous cardiovascular training to provide benefits. Physical activity in general is beneficial and can include a variety of things that most people can comfortably do at home or in the community. Physical activity includes, but is not limited to:
- Walking The Dog
- Using Stairs Instead of Elevators
2) Water Aerobics
It improves flexibility. Water helps people with MS move in ways they may not be able to on land while keeping their body temperatures down. It is important to know that the pool temperature should not exceed 84 degrees Fahrenheit for people with MS.
Tips for Successful Exercise
- Stay Hydrated Cold water helps keep your body temperature down
- Exercise in a cool room and, when outside, at cooler times of the day
- Remember to stretch afterwards
- No Pain
- Catch begin and walk slowly
- Consult a physician before beginning any new exercise program.
- Prioritize safety to reduce the risk of injury
How to Exercise Safely With MS
Regular exercise can improve MS symptoms. However, people can experience negative effects when starting a new exercise program. In addition, overexertion of the body can lead to severe fatigue, stiffness, and muscle cramps.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society recommends that post-exercise fatigue should not last more than 2 hours. Doctors recommend that anyone experiencing this level of fatigue reduce the intensity, frequency, or duration of their exercise. People should stop exercising if they experience any of the following:
- Excessive fatigue
- Drowsiness or dizziness
- Loss of balance or coordination problems
Tips for Exercising Safely
Take it easy. Always heat up first. Make your routine easy. If you can just walk around the block or across the room, that’s fine. Start with it and keep it that way. Over time you will develop your strength and be able to do much more.
- Stay safe. Avoid places with slippery floors, poor lighting, carpets, or other tripping hazards. Choose activities where you are unlikely to fall, such as E.g. cycling or swimming. You might want to have a grab bar or handrail nearby. Work with your physical therapist on stretching and strength training to improve your balance and coordination.
- Knowing when to stop. If you experience pain or discomfort while exercising, stop. If symptoms appear, change, or stop your routine. Talk to your doctor. Rest while you heal. Once you start feeling better, your physical therapist can help get you back on track.
- Find a balance. If you can train vigorously, that’s fine, but make sure your training doesn’t make you too weak. If you’re so tired or sore afterwards that you can’t cook dinner, you need to reconsider. On a good day, it’s tempting to push yourself, maybe go the extra mile. If you overdo it today, you might feel bad tomorrow. Maintain your normal pace.
- Make it fun. Choose an activity that you enjoy. Try water aerobics, swimming, tai chi, and yoga, which often work well for people with MS.
- Cool Down. When you’re done, always take some time to let your heart rate, body temperature, and breathing return to normal.
What Happens in Case of Overheating?
If you are heat sensitive, your symptoms may appear or worsen as your body temperature rises. This will happen when you exercise. To avoid overheating. Don’t exercise during the hottest part of the day (10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.). If you exercise outdoors, try to exercise in the morning or evening.
Drink plenty of fresh water. Be aware of your body. If you notice any symptoms that you didn’t have before you started exercising, slow down or stop until you cool down. Swimming and water aerobics are great ways to stay cool while exercising. Just make sure there are non-slip floors in the changing room and around the pool.
Wrapping Up – What Doctors Would Recommend?
MS is an unpredictable disease, and every day is different, which can make staying active a challenge. Here are his three tips for overcoming some of these barriers.
- Find a training partner. A training partner offers responsibility and community. It could be a friend, colleague, loved one, child, or someone in a support group. Be consistent. Find a physical activity that you enjoy (dance, yoga, walks, bike rides, water aerobics, count many fun activities) and start incorporating it into your routine.
- Give yourself grace. MS is unpredictable. Being physically active is important, but there are days when symptoms like extreme fatigue can make it difficult. Give yourself the grace and permission to rest or change the movements of the exercise.
- Set SMART goals. In other words, goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART). An example of a SMART goal is, “I will do 10 upper body movements, 10 lower body movements, and 10 core movements every day this month this month.” This gives you something to work on and makes activity a regular part your routine. Remember every move is a good move and celebrate what you are capable of today.