In addition to being essential to general health and well-being, exercise is helpful in managing many MS symptoms. A study published by researchers at the University of Utah in 1996 was the first to demonstrate clearly the benefits of exercise for people with MS. Those patients who participated in an aerobic exercise program had better cardiovascular fitness, improved strength, better bladder and bowel function, less fatigue and depression, a more positive attitude, and increased participation in social activities. Since 1996, several additional studies have confirmed the benefits of exercise.
Inactivity in people with or without MS can result in numerous risk factors associated with coronary heart disease. In addition, it can lead to weakness of muscles, decreased bone density with an increased risk of fracture, and shallow, inefficient breathing.
An exercise program needs to be appropriate to the capabilities and limitations of the individual, and may need to be adjusted as changes occur in MS symptoms. A physical therapist experienced with the unique and varied symptoms of MS can be helpful in designing, supervising and revising a well-balanced exercise program. Any person with MS who is initiating a new exercise program should also consult with his or her physician before starting.
Periods of exercise should be carefully timed to avoid the hotter periods of the day and prevent excessive fatigue. With some guidelines, a good exercise program can help to develop the maximum potential of muscle, bone and respiration, thereby avoiding secondary complications and gaining the benefits of good health and well-being.