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MS: Exercises for Better Balance and Coordination

woman with ms practicing yoga

Get tips for balance and coordination

Exercise and physical activity are important to your health and well-being. If you have multiple sclerosis (MS), you may find that exercise isn’t as easy as it once was. Consider using these stretches and exercises to increase your fitness levels and to improve your balance and coordination.

Consult your doctor before you begin an exercise program. Your doctor can help you create a plan that fits your capabilities and lifestyle.

The importance of exercise

Exercise is and should be a very important part of managing your MS. For a disease without a cure, staying in good physical shape is especially important. Medication can help slow the disease’s progression. Medication can also ease symptoms of the disease as it progresses. Still, the disease will take its toll. Exercise is a good way to improve some of the physical effects of MS. It’s also great for helping you regain balance and coordination.

Exercises, if approved by your doctor, may help you:

  • improve strength
  • increase cardiovascular capabilities
  • reduce fatigue
  • fight off depression
  • improve mood and well-being
  • provide opportunity for social interaction
  • fight disease

Stretching for better balance

Stretching might not be the first exercise you would consider, but it’s one of the most effective exercises for improving balance and coordination. It’s also easy for people of all physical activity levels.

Stretching can help improve your posture and prevent aches and pains associated with the disease. Gentle stretching can also help warm up muscles for movement. This is important if you’ve been inactive for a long period of time.

Warming up and slowly moving your muscles will also help prevent torn muscles, strains, and sprains. Stretch after you wake up or after sitting for long periods of time. Seated stretching is easier and safer for beginners.

Stretching exercise 1: hip marching

  1. Sit in a sturdy chair with your back touching the back of the chair.
  2. Place your hands comfortably on your legs.
  3. Slowly lift your left leg straight up, leaving the knee bent.
  4. Hold for a count of 5 (or as long as comfortable), and then return your foot to the floor.
  5. Repeat with the other leg.

Stretching exercise 2: arm punch

  1. Sit in a sturdy chair with your back touching the back of the chair.
  2. Place your hands comfortably on your legs.
  3. Lift your left arm out in front of you, making it parallel to the floor. 
  4. Without moving your back off the chair, stretch your arm slightly forward.
  5. Hold for a count of 5 (or as long as comfortable), and then return your arm down to your leg.
  6. Repeat with the other arm.

Stretching exercise 3: arm overhead

  1. Sit in a sturdy chair with your back touching the back of the chair.
  2. Place your hands comfortably on your legs.
  3. Lift your left arm toward the sky, along your ear.
  4. Without moving your back off of the chair, stretch as tall as you can.
  5. Hold to a count of 5 (or as long as comfortable), and then return your arm to your leg.
  6. Repeat with the other arm.

Stretching exercise 4: cross body stretch

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Place your hands by your side.
  3. Slowly lift your arms out to the side. Form a long line from arm to arm through your shoulders.
  4. Take your left arm and reach across your body as far as you can.
  5. Hold for a count of 5 (or as long as comfortable).
  6. Return your left arm to the line.
  7. Take your right arm and reach across your body as far as you can. Hold for a count of 5 (or as long as comfortable).
  8. Place your hands back by your side.

Yoga for coordination

Much like stretching, yoga can help strengthen muscles and improve coordination. Additionally, yoga has been shown to increase cardiovascular health, reduce depression and anxiety, and increase relaxation.

Certain poses are safer and more effective for people with MS. Ask your doctor to recommend a yoga teacher who has experience instructing people with MS.

Swimming

Water aerobics and swimming can help you build muscle, improve coordination, and improve balance. Group water aerobics classes are typically safe for people with MS.

Ask your doctor or your physical therapist to connect you with a group that’s suited for people with conditions that may interfere with movement.

The costs of being inactive

Although MS may make certain movements hard, it’s important you get as much exercise as you can. Without it, your body may pay a price. People who have MS but don’t get exercise increase their risk for:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • muscle weakness
  • bone density loss
  • bone fracture

Balance and coordination may be greatly impacted as well.

Meet with your doctor and discuss your capabilities. Your doctor may recommend specific exercises. Your doctor may also refer you to a physical therapist. A physical therapist can teach you exercises specific for MS and your needs. A physical therapist can also teach you how to revise the exercises if and when you’re having a flare-up or reduced capabilities. For your health and physical well-being, it’s important that you become active and remain active.

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