- Two small studies report on the benefits of exercise for people with MS who have moderate to severe mobility impairments. This research shows the importance of physical activity in enabling people with all forms of MS to live their best lives.
- The National MS Society provides resources on exercise for people living with all forms of MS, as well as for healthcare providers. Further information on increasing physical activity in adults with disabilities is available from the Centers for Disease Control.
Growing evidence suggests that exercise is good for a person’s overall health and for reducing other health conditions (co-morbidities). Research in MS has also suggested that exercise training is effective for improving aerobic capacity and muscle strength, mobility, quality of life, and may benefit cognition, fatigue and depression. However, research is limited on exercise options for people with MS who have moderate or severe mobility impairments. Two recent, small studies begin to address this gap.
Exercise for severe mobility impairments:
Investigators randomly assigned 12 people with progressive MS to receive total-body recumbent stepper training (similar to climbing stairs) or body weight–supported treadmill training. Both are used for people with severe mobility impairments, but the authors wanted to see if stepper training showed similar benefit to treadmill training, because it is significantly less costly to use and maintain the equipment. Participants completed three weekly 30-minute sessions for 12 weeks. Both training programs were safe, and although participants enjoyed both, stepper training was reviewed more favorably. There were no changes in physical function, but both reduced fatigue and improved quality of life.
The team (Lara A. Pilutti, PhD, now at the University of Ottawa, and former colleagues at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) has published results in the International Journal of MS Care
A cycling option for non-ambulatory people:
Functional electrical stimulation (FES) offers people with significant weakness and mobility problems a cycling option, using low-level electrical impulses to stimulate the activation of leg muscles. Researchers evaluated whether this type of cycling improved symptoms and quality of life in 16 people with moderate to severe MS who were unable to walk. Participants cycled for 30 minutes, two to three times a week for one month. Significant improvements were noted in cycling performance, and physical and psychosocial aspects of fatigue, as well as reductions in reported pain. There were no significant changes in spasticity, cognitive aspects of fatigue, or muscle strength. Further research in larger numbers of people would help to clarify how benefits might be optimized.
The team (Deborah Backus, PhD, PT, and colleagues at the Shepherd Center, Atlanta, GA) report their results in the International Journal of MS Care
(Published online, August 9, 2016
The National MS Society provides resources on exercise
for people living with all forms of MS, as well as for healthcare providers
. Further information on increasing physical activity in adults with disabilities
is available from the Centers for Disease Control.