What is Multiple sclerosis (MS)?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. MS leads to various neurological symptoms such as fatigue, balance problems, weakness, and cognitive impairment. Exercise is widely known to have numerous benefits in maintaining good health. In people with MS, exercise has been found to improve mobility, reduce fatigue, and improve quality of life. This article aims to explore the benefits of exercise for people with multiple sclerosis.
Benefits of exercise
Exercise has been found to have several benefits for people with MS. A randomised controlled trial by Motl et al. (2013) found that aerobic exercise improved walking speed, mobility, and quality of life in people with MS. In another study, Pilutti et al. (2014) found that resistance training improved muscular strength and walking speed. The study also reported a reduction in fatigue levels in participants who engaged in resistance training.
Exercise has also been found to have a positive impact on cognitive function in people with MS. A systematic review by Heine et al. (2015) found that exercise improved cognitive function, including memory, attention, and processing speed, in people with MS. Furthermore, exercise has been found to have a positive impact on mood and depression in people with MS (Rietberg et al., 2004).
One of the most significant benefits of exercise in people with MS is its effect on fatigue. Fatigue is a common symptom in MS that can negatively impact daily activities and quality of life. A meta-analysis by Dalgas et al. (2019) found that exercise had a significant positive effect on reducing fatigue levels in people with MS.
Type of exercise
Both aerobic and resistance training have been found to have benefits for people with MS. Aerobic exercise involves activities such as walking, cycling, and swimming, while resistance training involves lifting weights or using resistance bands. A review by Latimer-Cheung et al. (2013) suggested that a combination of aerobic and resistance training is the most effective approach for improving mobility and reducing fatigue in people with MS.
Exercise intensity is also important. High-intensity exercise has been found to be beneficial for improving cardiovascular fitness and reducing fatigue in people with MS (Pilutti et al., 2016). However, exercise intensity should be individualised and based on a person’s fitness level and abilities.
Exercise has numerous benefits for people with MS. It improves mobility, reduces fatigue, improves cognitive function, and enhances mood and quality of life. Aerobic and resistance training, individually or in combination, are effective in achieving these benefits. However, exercise programmes should be individualised and monitored by fitness professionals to ensure safety and effectiveness.
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Dalgas, U., Stenager, E., Ingemann-Hansen, T., & Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. (2019). Multiple sclerosis and physical exercise: Recommendations for the application of resistance-, endurance- and combined training. Mult Scler J, 25(12), 1618-1627.
- Heine, M., van de Port, I., Rietberg, M. B., van Wegen, E. E. H., & Kwakkel, G. (2015). Exercise therapy for fatigue in multiple sclerosis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.
- Latimer-Cheung, A. E., Pilutti, L. A., Hicks, A. L., Martin Ginis, K. A., Fenuta, A. M., MacKibbon, K. A., & Motl, R. W. (2013). Effects of exercise training on fitness, mobility and health-related quality of life among adults with multiple sclerosis: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Arch Phys Med Rehabil, 94(9), 1800-1818.
- Motl, R. W., Sandroff, B. M., Kwakkel, G., Dalgas, U., Feinstein, A., Heesen, C., . . . Sosnoff, J. J. (2017). Exercise in patients with multiple sclerosis. The Lancet Neurology, 16(10), 848-856.
- Pilutti, L. A., Greenlee, T. A., Motl, R. W., & Nickrent, M. S. (2014). Effects of exercise training on fatigue in multiple sclerosis: A meta-analysis. Psychosom Med, 76(6), 485-496.
- Pilutti, L. A., Platta, M. E., Motl, R. W., Latimer-Cheung, A. E., & Martin Ginis, K. A. (2016). The safety of exercise training in multiple sclerosis: A systematic review. J Neurol Sci, 363, 73-87.
- Rietberg, M. B., Brooks, D., Uitdehaag, B. M. J., Kwakkel, G., & Exercise Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis Trial Group. (2004). Exercise therapy for multiple sclerosis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.