Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, is an unpredictable disease that affects the central nervous system. MS is often debilitating, but that certainly doesn’t mean that you can no longer live an active lifestyle. In fact, fitness may be key in managing MS symptoms!
Some Big Benefits
So what are the benefits of exercising with MS? A study conducted by researchers at the University of Utah found that those with MS who completed an aerobic exercise program were able to better manage their MS symptoms, including having better bladder control and bowel function, less fatigue and improved strength.
Some other benefits include better cardiovascular fitness, improved cognitive function, increased participation in social activities and a more positive attitude.
Best Exercises for MS
Exercising with MS may be challenging, but it’s certainly not impossible! Stay active with five of the best exercises for MS as outlined by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society:
- Yoga: Due to its emphasis on breathing, stretching and relaxation, yoga can be a great exercise for those with MS – the key is finding the right yoga style for you. Some styles focus on meditation while others are meant to be more aerobic. To get started, contact MS Navigator to find a class and a qualified instructor.
- Adaptive Tai Chi: Tai chi is very similar to yoga as both focus on deep breathing and relaxation, but tai chi may be the better option for some since it can be done sitting down. Another benefit of tai chi is that most instructors can adjust the set of slow, flowing motions based on your needs, so be sure to talk to the instructor about your condition.
- Strength Training: Although exercising with MS may seem daunting, a recent study found that regardless of one’s disability level due to the disease, strength training improves walking, balance and endurance. Non-aggressive strength training that focuses on balance exercises, lifting weights and even core and back strengthening exercises is the best option.
- Water Exercises: Many physicians believe that water exercises provide the best benefits for those with MS since movement takes less effort in water than it does on land. Water exercises provide support for weak limbs, promote muscle relaxation and even improve one’s mobility, flexibility and balance. Some of the best water exercises for MS are side leg lifts, back leg lifts, marching and runner’s stretch.
- In-home Physical Activity: You don’t have to do a strenuous exercise routine every day to get the benefits outlined above – even just staying physically active around the home can help! Activities like gardening, cooking and household chores are all great ways to benefit your health.
Although these are some of the best exercises for those with MS, there are some important guidelines to follow. Perhaps most importantly, an exercise program should consider one’s capabilities and limitations. MS affects each individual differently, so a physical therapist should be consulted to design an exercise program that is right for you. Click here to learn some other tips on how you can adapt to being diagnosed with MS.
MS may affect each person differently, but one fact is universal (whether you have MS or not): physical inactivity increases your risk of developing heart disease and weakens your muscles, making exercise essential for everyone.