How Can Exercise Help With MS?

We are really excited to announce that we will have a stand at the MS Centre Summer Fayre this Saturday in Canterbury. We will be at the fayre all day answering any questions you may have, and we have also donated a free Personal Training session to the raffle on the day, so be sure to buy a ticket to be in with a chance of winning! To honour this, I have complied a short blog post on how exercise and Personal Training can help with Multiple Sclerosis, based on my personal experience of training some of of my lovely clients who suffer from the disease.

It's important to note that of course I am not a medical professional and anyone should receive clearance from their doctor before commencing an exercise program.

For those that don't know, MS is a lifelong condition that affects the brain and spinal cord, causing a range of symptoms such as blurred vision and problems with movement, balance and brain function. Because the disease affects the nervous system, symptoms can vary and often make it very difficult to stay active. People suffer with varying degrees of MS so the level and type of exercise that can be achieved also varies.

Exercise or even just general movement can improve your mood, mobility and muscle strength, as well as help to alleviate some MS symptoms. MS sufferers often experience high levels of fatigue which can be managed with the correct levels of exercise due to the mood boosting effects combined with muscle strengthening, making the body more efficient in movement and therefore less susceptible to fatigue. Balance is another prominent issue, and this is something that can be really helped with a specific exercise program alongside physiotherapy. Poor muscular strength contributes to the lack of balance amongst other things, and this is yet another aspect that can really be improved with the right exercises. Aerobic, dynamic workouts lead to improvements in balance and co-ordination and the deeper breathing that is induced with this kind of activity can also strengthen your core muscles and posture. Aerobic exercise improves walking ability, particularly when combined with resistance training to strengthen the legs. It is common with MS to have limited mobility and range of motion in the joints, and a Personal Trainer can help to provide flexibility and mobility exercises to improve this.

The physical benefits of exercise for MS sufferers are vast, however the social, emotional and psychological benefits of exercise to everyone (especially people with MS) are equally as, if not more important. Regular aerobic exercise is proven to help with depression and is a great general mood booster. Exercising can also be a social activity which allows you to meet new people and gain confidence in social environments - starting a team sport is arguably the best way to do this! Cognitive function has also been proven to improve with regular exercise, as well as memory.

Of course there are precautions to take, and the type of exercise/sport/activity should be chosen based on the individuals needs and capabilities, and most importantly what they enjoy. Many people with MS are sensitive to heat, so exercises can be adjusted or other measures such as cooling vests, extra ventilation and cold drinks can be used to ensure they stay cool.

This is by no means a comprehensive guide to exercising with MS, however I hope that this may increase the awareness of the disease and how I can help in my role as a Personal Trainer. We can't wait for the Fayre on Saturday, and we hope to see some of you there!

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