Importance of exercise
Exercise has been shown to have beneficial effects on a variety of MS symptoms, including fatigue, pain, depressive symptoms, functional capacity (e.g. walking), balance/falls, muscle strength, aerobic capacity .
Recommendations from experts for adults with mild to moderate MS [adapted from 2]:
General resistance training
- 2-3 days per week
- Try to do 5-10 exercises and 8-15 repetitions of each exercise
- Try to do 1-3 circuits
Below are a few simple exercises for people with MS to foster balance, strength, and flexibility at home to download.
Please advise your patients to do whatever works for them, whatever they are comfortable with without overdoing it. Almost all exercises can also be done from the sitting position. That said, not all exercises may be suitable for an individual patient and you may wish to advise them if there are exercise(s) they should best skip.
General aerobic training
- 2-3 days per week
- Gradually try to increase the duration of exercise from 10 to 30 minutes over time
- Exercise at moderate intensity (you can comfortably chat, but you can’t sing any more than a few words without running out of breath).
May include walking (over-ground, Nordic walking or treadmill), use of machines at the gym (arm, leg or combined), water-based exercise (including swimming).
Simple tips for encouraging your patients to exercise [adapted from 3,4]
- Help the patient recognize the personal benefits of physical activity
- Help to create an environment encouraging physical activity
- Propose an exercise toolkit by considering the patient’s experiences, strengths, values, and goals
- Identify barriers to physical activity and how to overcome them
- Set small, achievable goals
- Help build the patient’s confidence to attempt his or her chosen activity/goals
- Encourage the patient to log his or her activity and bring those logs to follow-up visits for further discussion and coaching
- Put the prescription in writing.
The same principle may also be supportive for other aspects of lifestyle such as healthier eating.