Everyone benefits from exercise. It’s an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. For the 400,000 Americans with multiple sclerosis (MS), exercise has some specific benefits. These include:
- easing symptoms
- helping promote mobility
- minimizing risks of some complications
However, it’s important to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. Your doctor may request you work specifically with a physical or occupational therapist until you’ve learned how to perform exercises without overworking your muscles.
Here are nine types of exercise you can do on your own or with assistance from a physical therapist. These exercise are meant to help you maintain a high quality of life and ease your symptoms.
Abdominal breathing, which is practiced during yoga, may help improve your breathing even when you’re not doing yoga. The better you breathe, the easier blood is able to circulate through your body. This improves respiratory and heart health.
People with MS often experience overheating, especially when exercising outside. For that reason, exercising in a pool will help you keep cool.
Water also has a natural buoyancy that supports your body and makes movement easier. You may feel more flexible than you do when not in the water. This means you may be able to do things in a pool you can’t do out of the pool, such as:
- lift weights
- perform cardio exercise
Also, these activities can boost both mental and physical health.
The real power of weight lifting isn’t what you see on the outside. It’s what’s happening inside your body. Strength training can help your body become stronger and rebound faster from injury. It can also help prevent injury.
People with MS may wish to try a weight or resistance-training activity. A trained physical therapist or trainer can tailor an exercise routine to your needs.
Stretching offers some of the same benefits as yoga. These include:
- allowing the body to breathe
- calming the mind
- stimulating muscles
Stretching can also help:
- increase range of motion
- decrease muscle tension
- build muscle stamina
MS affects the cerebellum in the brain. This part of your brain is responsible for balance and coordination. If you’re having trouble maintaining balance, a balance ball may help.
You can use a balance ball to train the major muscle groups and other sensory organs in your body to compensate for your balance and coordination difficulties. Balance or medicine balls can also be used in strength training.
Some forms of martial arts, such as tai chi, are very low-impact. Tai chi has become popular for people with MS because it helps with flexibility and balance and builds core strength.
Any exercise that raises your pulse and increases your respiration rate offers many health benefits. This type of exercise may even help with bladder control. Aerobics is a great way to boost your body’s natural defense system, ease symptoms of MS, and build stamina. Examples of aerobic exercise include walking, swimming, and cycling.
Traditional bicycling may be too challenging for a person with MS. However, modified bicycling, such as recumbent bicycling, can be helpful. You’d still pedal like on a traditional bicycle, but you won’t have to worry about balance and coordination because the bicycle is stationary.
Sports activities promote balance, coordination, and strength. Some of these activities include:
- horseback riding
Many of these activities can be modified for a person with MS. In addition to the physical benefits, playing a favorite sport may be beneficial to your mental health.
If you’re unable to physically keep up with the demands of a 20- or 30-minute exercise routine, you can split it up. Five-minute periods of exercise can be just as beneficial to your health.