Tips From a Doctor: Multiple Sclerosis and Exercise
- by Dr. Allen C. Bowling
- June 01, 2020
Dr. Bowling has been compensated by Teva Neuroscience, Inc.
Research has shown that exercise has many benefits for most people living with MS. Exercise may help improve many different MS symptoms, such as fatigue and bowel and bladder difficulties. Exercise may also have general health benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer, lowering of blood pressure, weight reduction, and prevention and treatment of diabetes and osteoporosis. As always, it’s important to talk with your doctor before making any lifestyle changes or starting a new exercise program.1-5
It may be difficult for some to find time to start exercising regularly, or some might find gyms to be unappealing. In these cases, unconventional exercise programs may be valuable pieces to include in your daily routine. These options may be considered fun to some and not feel as burdensome.
Below you’ll find some programs that may be beneficial to those living with MS. These exercises don’t require gym equipment and could even be done with a group of friends.6-11
- Yoga: This can be a gentle and effective form of exercise. Yoga is now widely available and poses may be modified to their simplest forms. Yoga is designed to support the body’s joints and muscles and can be practiced while standing or sitting.
- Tai Chi: More gentle than yoga, tai chi is a Chinese martial art. In people with MS, it may improve walking, decrease stiffness, and improve social and emotional functioning. Check out this video if you’d like to practice mindful movement.
- Pilates: Pilates is becoming more popular among people who have MS and has many of the same physical and mental health benefits as yoga. It helps to increase flexibility and strength through controlled movements.
- Pole Walking: Also known as Nordic walking, pole walking involves walking while using trekking Nordic poles, which are like ski poles that have a special glove-like system attached. The poles provide additional support and thus may protect from falling. The use of poles provides a more comprehensive workout, including greater use of the torso and arm muscles.
- Dancing: The musical and rhythmic movements of dancing may provide a more stimulating experience than a conventional exercise. Dancing can be performed sitting down or standing up.
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Allen C. Bowling, MD, PhD
About The Author
Dr. Allen C. Bowling, MD, PhD is an internationally renowned neurologist and multiple sclerosis specialist.
1. Benefits of an exercise program. National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. https://www.nationalmssociety.org/For-Professionals/Clinical-Care/Managing-MS/Intro-to-MS-for-Fitness-Professionals/Module-3. Accessed February 4, 2020. 2. 7 heart benefits of exercise. Johns Hopkins website. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/7-heart-benefits-of-exercise. Accessed February 4, 2020. 3. 7 things you can do to prevent a stroke. Harvard Health Publishing website. https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/8-things-you-can-do-to-prevent-a-stroke. Published June 2013. Updated August 22, 2018. Accessed February 4, 2020. 4. Exercise linked with lower risk of 13 types of cancer. American Cancer Society website. https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/exercise-linked-with-lower-risk-of-13-types-of-cancer.html. Published May 17, 2016. Accessed February 4, 2020. 5. Exercise for your bone health. National Institute of Health Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center website. https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/bone-health/exercise/exercise-your-bone-health. Accessed February 4, 2020. 6. Yoga and MS. National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. https://www.nationalmssociety.org/Living-Well-With-MS/Diet-Exercise-Healthy-Behaviors/Exercise/Yoga. Accessed February 4, 2020. 7. Bowling AC. Tai chi and qigong. In: Optimal Health With Multiple Sclerosis: A Guide to Integrating Lifestyle, Alternative, and Conventional Medicine. New York, NY: Demos Medical Publishing; 2014:317-322. 8. Harmon M. Exercise as part of everyday life. National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/nationalmssociety/media/msnationalfiles/brochures/brochure-exercise-as-part-of-everyday-life.pdf. Published 2016. Accessed February 4, 2020. 9. Anderson P. Dancing with MS. Medscape website. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/845692#vp_1. Published June 1, 2015. Accessed February 4, 2020. 10. Fitness trend: Nordic walking. Harvard Health Publishing website. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/fitness-trend-nordic-walking. Published November 2019. Accessed February 4, 2020. 11. Adaptive tai chi. National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. https://www.nationalmssociety.org/Living-Well-With-MS/Diet-Exercise-Healthy-Behaviors/Exercise/Adaptive-Tai-Chi. Accessed February 4, 2020.
COPAXONE® (glatiramer acetate injection) is a prescription medicine that is used to treat relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS), to include clinically isolated syndrome, relapsing-remitting disease, and active secondary progressive disease, in adults.
Do not use COPAXONE® if you are allergic to glatiramer acetate or mannitol.
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Muriel | September 10, 2017Exercise is undoubtedly beneficial to people with MS. What wasn't discussed is the "rebound" effect many ppl with MS feel later that day or the next. Yesterday I went for a swim. Not an intense workout by any means. Today I feel as if I was pummeled. It doesn't matter the type of exercise. Obviously the intensity of the workout will lead to a greater or lesser rebound of muscle pain, fatigue etc..
sandra | September 13, 2017Thanks I've been looking for exercises for MS! I was diagnosed in 1987, I was runner & I think I had it for about 10 years before that cause when I ran I couldn't go in a straight line. Am now using a walker with wheels.
Teva's Lift MS® Team | September 13, 2017We are always here to listen, sandra. Please reach out whenever you need to.
Sandra | February 14, 2018Great article. Thanks for the tips on managing my MS!
Teva's Lift MS® Team | February 15, 2018We’re glad you liked this, Sandra. We hope you’ll check back often for new content!
Kim | February 28, 2018Thank you for any and all of the help you can provide, Dr. Bowling.
Teva's Lift MS® Team | March 01, 2018We are happy you are finding value in the blog, Kim! Please continue to check back for more info.
aminah | August 23, 2018YES TO MY FRIENDS WITH MS. WHEN I AMBULATE I COUNT,I 2,3START OVER 1,2,3. THIS KEEPS ME IN A STRAIGHTFORWARD DIRECTION. OTHER TIMES FOR LONG DISTANCES, I USE A STICK AS TALL AS MYSELF. I'M 5'2 WHICH GIVES ME BALANCE AND KEEPS ME FROM DIRECTION TOWARD LEFT. KEEPING A POSITIVE FRAME OF MIND WITH PRAYER GUIDES ONE ALSO. MS SINCE 2008,A REGISTERED CARDIAC RN.,FORCED ME TOO RETIRE AFTER 32 YRS. KEEP FA
Teva's Lift MS® Team | August 24, 2018Thank you for sharing what works for you, aminah.
Patricia | June 27, 2019Sincerely hope you know how much this is appreciated
Teva's Lift MS® Team | June 28, 2019Thanks for your kind words, Patricia! Comments like yours fuel our efforts to build a helpful community.