Exercise & Multiple Sclerosis

Continuing on from the previous post, this will focus on exercising with multiple sclerosis  (MS). MS is a neurological condition that affects three times as many women as men. The physical symptoms include problems with vision, balance, and the bladder, dizziness, stiffness, muscle spasm, tremors, and fatigue. It can also affect memory and mental health. Research has found that people with MS have lower qualities of life compared to people without MS across all domains investigated – physical health, psychological and environmental adjustment, and social relationships.

One study has found that activity levels were correlated to lower levels of pain, depression, fatigue, and the disability itself. It was also correlated with higher social support, self-efficacy, and quality of life. However, it is unclear from this study whether exercise led to these improvements or whether the participants who did exercise had less severe symptoms of MS and therefore could be more active. Petajan (1996) carried out an exercise intervention to investigate just that and following a 15 week aerobic training plan, there were improvements in bladder and bowel function, social interaction, and emotional behaviour. There were also mental health benefits in the form of reduced levels of depression, anger, and fatigue. Further, Marck (2014) argued that as a majority of studies on MS do tend to use people who have mild forms of the disease, they are not applicable to those with more severe forms. Marck then recruited over 2000 people with MS to complete an online survey and found that generally, those who exercised were younger, male with low BMIs, and mild forms of MS – as expected. Reflecting previous results, as exercise increased so did physical and mental health, social functioning, and overall quality of life. A crucial factor though was not the severity of the disease; individuals with severe MS who exercised 5 times a week had a higher quality life than someone with mild MS who did no exercise.

The take home message is exercise is accessible to individuals with disabilities and should be accessed for the numerous benefits it yields.

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