Multiple Sclerosis and Exercise– The summer is officially upon me and I’m loving the great weather we’ve been having. I got out of the gate a little too fast and now my bald head is molting after a burn. I’m not discouraged; I have placed sunscreen at the backdoor and in my van so that I’m always at the ready. Tonight my Ultimate (frisbee) season starts, so there is excitement all around. In addition, a very good friend of mine has agreed to start exercising with me three days a week. He is having some health issues, so I have encouraged him to start a program with me. I’m really looking forward to it, which brings me to the point of today’s post- should people with MS commit to an exercise program?
When I started thinking about writing this post I recalled reading a paper several years ago on the topic. Luckily, I managed to save a copy and you can find it here. The article, ‘Exercise and Multiple Sclerosis’, was written in 2004 by Lesley J. White and Rudolph H. Dressendorfer. Their findings suggest that exercise is good for people with MS and can aid with:
- muscle weakness
In addition the paper cites a study by Kraft et al. which showed that, ” progressive resistance training improves muscle strength in MS patients and the ability to perform common daily activities while also improving psychosocial wellbeing.” The paper goes on to conclude:
Disability in MS is associated with reduced strength and aerobic endurance, spasticity, impaired balance and systematic fatigue…… Although further research is indicated, prescription of exercise that enhances cardiorespiratory endurance, muscle strength, mobility and balance shows promise as an effective intervention strategy to minimize functional losses in persons with MS.
Nothing radical, but it is important for those of us with MS to understand the role that exercise can have on the disease.
The point of exercise for people with MS, from my point of view, is not to run marathons or bench press 300lbs. The point is to remain active and to challenge your body to heal itself.
If you can only walk one block right now and that is your excuse for not exercising, you need to change your thinking. I say walk one block today and for the next few days. Then walk two blocks and then three and so on. If you can only do one push up today, do one pushup! Then challenge yourself to slowly do more and stick to it! The last part of the last sentence is very important.
At different points in my life I’ve ranged from fit to overweight to very overweight. When I was diagnosed in 2007, I would have been on the border between overweight to very overweight. I couldn’t run 1 km, but by 2009 through diet and exercise I had dropped 30 lbs and ran my first 1/2 marathon. The following summer I had started to gain weight back and by the spring of 2011 I was overweight again as I had stopped exercising with any regularity and my diet was suspect. As I type this, I am the same weight and size that I was when I ran my first 1/2 marathon in 2009 and exercising regularly and keeping a strict eye of my diet. As you can see the key is commitment and consistency.
So if you have MS, or even if you don’t, and you are considering starting an exercise program talk to your doctor and get out there! Just be smart and don’t overdue it as it needs to be gradual in order for you to stick with it.
Until next time,