Multiple Sclerosis and Exercise


This is my first post on Own Multiple in the new year. I don’t really have an excuse, but I have been busy with family, work, and life. I had a good Christmas and holiday season and for one of my gifts I received a sport watch to aid in the tracking of my running (it is pretty sweet, it has GPS for outdoors and a shoe sensor for when I run the track indoors). In addition to the awesome gift, my sister has started training to run her first ever 1/2 marathon. I’m pretty excited for her and her new pursuit and with the gift of my new watch I have exactly the kicks in the ass I need to refocus on my own training. My sister and I are planning on running a half marathon together sometime in the summer or fall of 2014.

If you have read anything I’ve written on the OwnMs website before you probably know that running is one of the primary ways I have combated MS since my diagnosis in 2007. When I first began I never really did any research on the impact that exercise can have on Multiple Sclerosis, but since that time (and with the inception of this blog), I have managed to track down a few research articles on the subject.

It appears that a regular exercise program can potentially have an impact on the course of MS. Is that really a surprise?

Unfortunately, “evidence shows that persons with MS participate in physical activity at a level more than 1⁄2 standard deviation below that of a non-MS population.” For those of us afflicted with the disease this is not a surprising fact. Fatigue, numbness, balance, and a multitude of other issues can severely impair the desire or ability to develop and continue with an exercise program.

However, to fight the disease we must.

The clinically proven impact of exercise on people with Multiple Sclerosis isn’t clear. One research article found:

Recent evidence from studies applying nonclinical and patient-reported measures as well as from studies applying the EAE animal model of MS indicate a possible disease-modifying effect of exercise (or physical activity) but the strength of the evidence limits definite conclusions.

Another study found that resistance training showed significant improvements in female patients in terms of, “knee extensors, abduction of scapula, and downward rotation of the scapular girdle muscle groups.” (link resistance training)

So does exercise have a positive effect or not?

With so much of the data that people with MS can consume, the conclusions aren’t clear. It is up to each individual to judge for themselves what is safe and which path they choose.

The evidence presented in the studies and articles referenced seems to indicate that exercise does have a positive impact on the outcomes for MS patients, but that is my opinion based on what I have read. Is the evidence and the conclusions presented clear? No, but the data appears positive.

Is it well known that exercise can have a profound impact on overall health an vitality? Yes. If you are the healthiest you can possibly be will you have a better chance of fending off MS? This hasn’t been proven, but for me it is reasonable to assume that is the case.

Since exercise when done properly can’t possibly be bad for me (or you) and will improve my overall health, mood, and well being, I see it as a must for anyone fighting MS. My experience, though completely anecdotal and subjective, is exercise works. I find that when I am exercising regularly my mood is elevated, I feel better, and while I’m exercising (specifically running), the constant numbness I experience subsides.

For anyone reading please understand that I was very out of shape in the spiring of 2007 when I was diagnosed. I couldn’t run the length of a football field without being winded and possibly wanting to punch myself in the face. I kept pushing and by the the spring of 2009 I had run my first half marathon. I now regularly run distances of 10 kilometres and plan to start ramping up in the next few months to distances of 15km and greater as I get ready to run another marathon.

The key is being consistent and tiny steps each day.

If you aren’t well enough to run, walk. Walk a block today and then a block and a little bit more days from now and so on and so on. If you can’t walk, practice getting out of your chair. Do it once, then twice and so on and so on. Be safe, stay consistent, and keep pushing.

Don’t let your MS be an excuse, let it be a motivation. Get pissed off and prove to yourself you can do it.

I can’t guarantee you won’t have another relapse (no one can). I can’t guarantee you will be as before (again, no one can).

I can guarantee if you develop, execute, and be consistent with a safe exercise plan you will feel better than you do now and your outlook will improve.

What do you have to lose?

Please leave a comment! Even if you disagree!


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