Caution: Exercises Ahead

Have you seen the ads running online these days that promote ten exercises for people with MS? Or ad that touts the eight ways for people with MS to strengthen our core and improve our balance? You probably have if you are on Facebook at all because they pop up regularly and they make me pause and question ‘what are they thinking!?’

Now even though I don’t currently engage in it myself, I have no reason to dislike or disapprove of exercise. In fact, I have even read the studies and know people affected by MS should be getting exercise in whatever form they can handle, and the benefits for brain health from working out, even for people who don’t have MS, have been well documented.

This particular ad for an article on MS exercises features a fit and slender woman in fashionable (read… $$ costly) workout clothes on the floor, in a plank position. In case you aren’t familiar with this core strengthening move, imagine a board, hence the name plank. Lying on the floor, the person performing this exercise uses their toes and forearms to lift their body off the floor in a straight line, straight as a board. Once in the plank position you have to engage your core muscles to hold this pose for an extended period of time – in other words, longer than five seconds.

Having done this exercise over several months when I was still working out in the gym with a trainer, I can tell you a plank is tough to do and her smiling image in the MS exercise ad doesn’t portray the reality for most of us. I would get in position, hoist my body up and then immediately feel the sag, as if I were sway backed, as I tried to maintain the right form. Eventually I could hold this not so straight plank position for a minute or so, but getting up off the floor when I was done was never a pretty sight.

A few months ago I was at physical therapy and pulled out my smart phone to show the therapist the story on eight ways for people with MS to exercise that was also promoted on my Facebook page. The therapist was aghast at the exercises being shown and immediately commented the person recommending them most probably has never done a day of neuro-rehab training. That article also had a lot of moves that are done on the floor, and as many of you might identify with, I am usually only on the floor as the result of an accident. Getting up from there takes considerable effort, so I avoid being on the floor if at all possible. The therapist remarked about their use of floor exercises as well and lamented there are plenty of good, safe workouts for people with MS, but unfortunately they weren’t listed in this article.

In summary, I am not against exercise. What I am against is a portrayal of someone who most probably doesn’t have MS doing something that most everyone, with or without MS can’t do, and being told it would be good for me. If you want to have an exercise workout and your MS has limited what you can do, please consult a physical therapist who can help design appropriate exercises for you. As for those exercises recommended on Facebook, don’t look for me to be doing those - I would much rather walk the plank off the end of a pirate ship than be down on the floor and do another plank.

Wishing you well,


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