Exercise and MS
Regular recreation, active living and a personalised exercise program can help you to live well with MS. Exercise does not trigger a relapse (exacerbation) of MS or adversely affect the disease process. Regular exercise can help manage some of the symptoms of MS and decrease the effects of physical inactivity.
The physical benefits of exercise
Regular physical activity can benefit everyone – not just people living with MS. Benefits include:
- Reduced fatigue and increased stamina and fitness levels
- Improved joint flexibility
- Improved coordination, balance and mobility
- Improvement and maintenance of muscle strength and tone
- Management of mild spasticity (muscle stiffness)
- Improved posture and reduced back and neck pain
- Maintenance of blood pressure at normal levels and decreased risk of heart disease
- Reduced risk of obesity, diabetes and osteoporosis
The mental and emotional benefits of exercise
Regular exercise is also important to support mental and emotional health. Physical activity and exercise can elevate mood and reduce stress and depression. It also helps build self-confidence and a sense of wellbeing, and provides the opportunity for social interaction and support. Exercise is also important for the mind, providing increased alertness and concentration.
Special exercise considerations for MS
Fatigue and MS
People with MS usually experience fatigue sooner and take longer to recover than people who do not have MS. Fatigue may occur and continue for several hours or even into the next day. Start with low intensity exercise and duration and build up slowly. If fatigue lasts longer than 30 to 60 minutes, modify your exercise session by reducing the intensity and duration.
Small increases in environmental or body temperature can temporarily increase physical and sensory symptoms. Try to keep cool while exercising by wearing loose clothing, drinking water before and during exercise, exercising in an air-conditioned or well ventilated area, and wearing a wet cloth or cool band around your neck.
Sometimes the intensity or number of sensory symptoms (e.g. numbness, tingling, pins and needles or blurred vision) can increase during exercise. These changes can be unavoidable but, if tolerable, you can continue exercising. An increase in symptoms usually resolves within a short time after the exercise session. You may need to decrease the level of exercise intensity if temporary worsening of symptoms does not resolve within 30 minutes after exercising.
Starting an exercise program
You should always consult your doctor, physiotherapist or trained fitness instructor before commencing a new exercise regime. Ask your doctor what form of exercise is best for you and if there are any health risks which may affect your ability to exercise safely.
Talk to a physiotherapist
A physiotherapist can help you manage the physical symptoms of MS (e.g. muscle weakness, altered balance, loss of coordination, fatigue, pain, spasm or tremor) and can design an exercise program suited to your individual needs and preferences.
MS Queensland have a team of neurophysiotherapists who specialise in the management of MS and other progressive neurological diseases (PND). Using specialist exercises and techniques they can help you regain or improve your mobility and increase your day to day functionality. You can contact the NeuroAssist InfoLine to learn more about starting an exercise program or to book an initial assessment with one of our neurophysio team members.
Book a neurophysio assessment
Our neurophysio team will assess your goals and abilities and then develop a personalised exercise program.
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View our Exercise and Physical Health webinar
Our MS Nurse explores some of the common questions about exercise and MS
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Download the MSQ Exercise and MS fact sheet
Includes information, resources and tips to help you make exercise part of your wellbeing plan.
Attend a free neurophysio information session
Find out about the role of Neurological Physiotherapy in the management of MS and other progressive neurological diseases.
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Join an MSQ Neurophysio exercise group
MSQ offers a variety of exercise groups in locations across South East Queensland.
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