Exercises suitable for you and your MS should be discussed with the help of your support team (GP, MS Nurse, Physiotherapist) as some exercises will be beneficial for some and not for others.
Some of our Regional Societies hold exercise classes for their members or connect with other community services in their region. Contact your Regional Society for information about MS specific exercise options in your area.
Getting fit and keeping fit helps the body and mind to stay as healthy as possible. Regular exercise is a good idea for anyone, but for people with ms, there are even more specific benefits.
Research has suggested that exercise can improve the overall health of people with milder MS and help people with more severe MS to stay as mobile and active as possible.
Exercise can also help some people manage their MS symptoms, such as fatigue, muscle stiffness, balance difficulties, anxiety, depression, bladder and bowel problems and decrease the risk of heart disease.
Different forms of exercise, including yoga, can help to combat the symptoms of fatigue. A recent study examined the fatigue levels of people living with MS; one group signed on for a yoga class geared to the needs of people with MS, a second group took a stationary-bicycling class, and a third group had no specific program given to them. At the end of the 6-month study, both the yoga and stationary bike participants reported improvement in their fatigue levels, while the third group, who had no specific exercise program, saw no improvement in their MS fatigue symptoms.
Weight-bearing exercise is a good way to strengthen bones and protect against osteoporosis, a bone-thinning disease. People with MS are at particular risk for osteoporosis due to a combination of factors. For one, levels of Vitamin D – the nutrient that works with calcium to protect bone health — are typically low among people living with MS. Certain medications (such as corticosteroids) that are effective in the treatment of MS can also lead to lower calcium levels. These lower levels of vitamin D and calcium make it harder for your body to retain bone density or strength. At the same time, people with multiple sclerosis often face mobility issues that make them more prone to falling, which can lead to broken bones.
The good news is you can combat these vitamin and mineral deficiencies and further strengthen your bones with exercise. Weight bearing exercises – including running, aerobics, dancing, and stair climbing – help you build and maintain bone density that will protect your bones, even if you stumble and fall.
The decrease in mobility caused by multiple sclerosis, combined with the side effects of common MS medications (such as steroid drugs used to treat flare-ups), can lead to weight gain, which can contribute to a further decrease in your ability to get around. Exercise can slow or stop this cycle.
MS may increase the risk of heart problems due to its effect on involuntary bodily processes such as breathing, digestion, and heart rhythm. Staying physically active has long been promoted as a healthy way to decrease risks for heart disease. Even mild or moderate activity can help minimize your risk of cardiovascular problems down the line. For many people, MS means a change in physical activity and mobility, but it does not mean that life comes to a standstill. If you are unable to continue activities that you used to enjoy, talk to your doctor about new ways to stay active, or talk to a physical therapist about ways to make your old favourite activities more accessible.
The Alinker is a non-motorized walking-bike without pedals. The Alinker is for everyone who wants to maintain an active life regardless of their movement abilities/disabilities. It is designed to be so cool that it overcomes the uneasiness towards disabilities that is felt by mainstream society. When you are using the Alinker you are the person with that cool bike rather than someone who is overlooked or ignored. The Alinker is challenging assumptions about people with disabilities and is striving to build a more inclusive community.
The MS Trust (UK) developed in partnership with a specialist neurophysiotherapist, a range of exercises that you can adapt to your own needs. They vary in difficulty, so you may find that not all of them are right for you.
The exercises have been divided up into different categories based on the starting position (sitting, standing, kneeling or lying) and the issues they help address (such as balance, posture and strength). This may help you to decide which ones are appropriate for you and how to fit them in with your daily activities. Initially you might want to consider enlisting help from a physiotherapist to help you choose the right exercises for you, give you some tips and pointers and advise you on how to build up the amount that you do gradually.
Overcoming MS and the MSing Link – Recorded exercise classes to do from the comfort of your home – Overcoming MS
The MS Trust (UK) have developed Move it for MS, the fun way to exercise with Mr Motivator and a group of people with MS.
Pilates aims to develop the relationship between your brain and the muscles by performing specific movements in a controlled manner. There is a focus on relaxed breathing and core control (using your abdominals to stabilise your middle while allowing the arms/legs to move). This focus can then incorporate exercising in standing, using balance automatically while you are using your arms in an exercise. There are many bed or mat exercises that can be used to improve hip and knee control, and arm movement and range whilst maintaining core control. Pilates can strengthen your weakened muscles through specialised exercise equipment (Pilates) and fitness equipment – and target particular muscles which need work.
Tai Chi emphasizes complete relaxation and is essentially a form of meditation, or, what has been called “meditation in motion.” Unlike other martial arts, Tai Chi is characterized by slow paced, gentle movements. Because the whole body moves as one, Tai Chi cultivates the link between mind and body, reducing stress and enhancing balance and co-ordination.
Aquatic based exercise benefits people with MS in a number of ways. Many people who struggle with land based exercise find water based more achievable. We recommend discussing these options with a health professional and having a support person if you require assistance. Aqua based exercises can help by:
Exercise or not in water – National MS Society
Swim like a fish – National MS Society
Yoga can be done both at home or with professional support making it an accessible form of exercise. Yoga can help people with MS with balance, core strength, improved body alignment and relaxation which can support with daily life and tasks to improve general overall health and well-being.
Yoga and MS – National MS Society
Vibration training is a method of exercise designed for muscle wasting diseases and conditions, such as MS, that systematically take away muscle control, whether it be muscle based, central nervous system depletion or “brain to body” interrupted communication. With MS muscular strength can be lost in the arms and legs as a result of loss of muscle control, which can exacerbate loss of muscle through the associated complications to exercise. Vibration Training can be an effective form of exercise in these circumstances as it works on involuntary reflexes rather than physical activity.
Exercise for people with MS – MS Trust
Exercise – National MS Society
Enjoy a winter sport – National MS Society
Stay flexible through stretching – National MS Society
Staying mobile through cycling – Graham – Roche Video
Exercise and Keeping Active with MS – MS Auckland with Gilly Davy