Exercise therapy has long been known to help with multiple sclerosis (MS). Research has shown that exercise helps with managing MS symptoms, even in advanced stages.
Depending on your specific needs, your doctor may suggest lifting weights, aerobic exercise, or a combination of the two. In some cases, your doctor may also recommend certain exercise classes or working with an exercise therapy specialist.
The Benefits of Exercise
When your MS advances, you’re likely to encounter problems with walking, pace, and balance. You may also feel more depressed. Daily exercise can help you fight off these problems and may help you feel better about yourself and your diagnosis.
Findings from studies have shown exercise can help in many other ways, including:
- boost cardiovascular fitness
- increase strength
- decrease fatigue
- improve bladder and bowel control
- improve attitude
- enhance cognitive function
- increase participation in social functions
Lifting weights and aerobic activities are great ways to begin incorporating exercise into your daily routine. Another way to supplement your routine is through exercise classes.
Many recreation centers and pools offer classes that are perfect for getting exercise in the water. Those with MS often find that exercising in water supports their body more than on dry land. Being in the water also allows you to get a greater range of motion, while putting less pressure or impact on your body.
There are a variety of water exercises to choose from, including water aerobics, water tai chi, dance, and even walking and stretching programs. All of these offer beneficial exercise for the body while improving balance and coordination. An added benefit of these classes is the ability to be social and meet others.
Other exercise classes that can be beneficial are yoga or tai chi. Ask you doctor what classes are most appropriate for you and your body.
There may be a time when your MS advances to the point that your doctor recommends seeing an exercise professional or specialist. A physical therapist, especially one who works specifically with MS patients, is trained to help stretch and train the body. During a session, the therapist will target all of the muscle groups in your body, starting in your neck and shoulders and ending with your ankles and feet.
Physical therapists are also able to help control spasticity with exercise and stretching. Spasticity, or an involuntary tightening and stiffness of the muscles, is a common symptom for those with MS. They can also help prevent muscle atrophy, which is when muscle tissue begins to break down from lack of use.
Most importantly, a physical therapist can create a daily stretching exercise program specific for your needs. Since MS symptoms are varied, no two people will have the same needs. Physical therapists recognize this and create programs for your specific symptoms.
Whether it’s working out at home, going to an exercise class, or meeting with a physical therapist, keeping your muscles in shape will help your body and your overall fight against MS.