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Don’t forget to exercise!

Don’t forget to exercise!

No doubt we are all aware of the importance and benefits of exercising. For MSers, this is especially important, no matter in what stage of MS we live.

Yet, studies have shown that people with MS exercise less than the general population[1].

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This is no surprise, is it? After all, it can be extremely difficult to find the energy and/or motivation to exercise when we do not feel well, when we’re hit with major fatigue or having some symptoms flare up. In the 1970’s, it was actually believed that folks with MS should avoid exercise. Medical professionals thought that getting into a regular exercise regime would be detrimental to the disease. Then there’s the myth that exercising can actually cause a relapse. No wonder we’re discouraged!

So, how can we muster up the motivation to exercise?

I certainly don’t have the official playbook but, for me, it’s about choosing something I enjoy, cycling, and remembering the stats that prove just how beneficial exercise is to my life with MS.

Lack of exercise or inactivity can lead to some pretty serious health risks: weaker muscles, decreased bone density (read risk of fracture) and shallow and inefficient breathing[2]. This fact is a huge motivating factor for me. Because I live with MS, I know that my body needs to be strong. Being strong helps to reduce bumping into walls (a favorite of mine), reduce the chances of falling and, ultimately, reduce the risk of getting seriously hurt.

On the days I feel up to it, I drive out to the ocean and go for a bike ride. My goal is to ride for about 20 miles so I get a good workout. The ocean breeze keeps my body temperature somewhat cool which helps so much. When I’m done, I feel amazing.

Yet, not everybody can ride the Tour de France (a woman can dream, right?)

We all live with different stages of our MS diagnosis and it may not be appropriate or possible to hop on a bike and ride for miles. So, here are a few tips:

  • First things first. Consult with your physician. Together, you can figure out what type of exercise is appropriate and make changes if needed, as MS can be unpredictable.
  • Remember that there is a wide range of exercises suitable for all levels of disability. Our friends over at MSTrust have a great booklet you can download (free!) which features exercises that can be done from a sitting or lying position.
  • Add variety to your exercise regime. On the days I feel less energized or when I’m stuck at the office, I walk. I try to walk for 15 minutes, two or three times a day. This keeps my body moving.
  • Listen to your body. Recovery time is longer for those of us living with MS[3] so it’s important not to push too hard. 

Now, I’ve only touched the surface here about exercise and all of the benefits. I would love to hear from you. What are some things you do to keep your body strong? What type of exercise do you enjoy? What are some of the challenges you face?

Best always,

Christie

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

1. Nortvedt MW, Riise T, Maeland JG. Multiple sclerosis and lifestyle factors: the Hordaland Health Study. Neurol Sci 2005; 26:334-339 2. National Multiple Sclerosis Society website 3. MS Trust website. http://www.mstrust.org.uk/information/exercises/

Comments

  • Curious1
    6 years ago

    My balance is not great so outside I use a cane. I’d really like to start walking the dog again, as we’ve both put on weight but when I exercise my legs (just had some PT), they tire easily and afterwards they spasm for days! How do I avoid that?

  • Dee
    6 years ago

    I used to do a lot of yoga, racquetball and walking. I got discouraged even before I was diagnosed due to my balance and fatigue issues. I couldn’t hold those hard poses I had worked so long to achieve without falling and I miss it! Now I am a massage therapist (which I didn’t think I could do but did!) but I am concerned about my energy levels. It can be a very physical job but I don’t feel like it is enough of course. I want to get into better shape and feel as strong as I did (I know I’ll have to let go of some of that want) but want to also keep my job. Any suggestions or anyone else that has a physicial job? Not doing massage is NOT an option; it is my stress management more than anything else ever has been. Thanx 🙂

  • Chuck
    6 years ago

    I enjoy flying kites. Stunt kites, and power kites mainly. I was active in body building when I had my first episode. I was very discouraged that I could no longer lift since my left side had not the strength to keep the bar level. I didn’t have a regular exercise regimine and have had a decline in strength for the past 15 years. I am active but only recently taken up kite flying and get a really good exhausting workout with the power kites. I try to get out 3 times a week or more. Not only do I feel like I have more energy, but flying the kites are so mentally relaxing that I forget about the pain for a while.

  • Christie Germans author
    6 years ago

    I’m so impressed that you can fly kites! Me? I was never good at it but really enjoy watching everything in the sky. So glad you find refuge in the experience – sounds amazing. Hope you’re feeling alright these days. Best, Christie

  • itasara
    6 years ago

    Sorry to say, I think I was born a couch potato! for some unknown reason when my eldest was maybe 4 (1980-1)I started jogging. I was maybe 33 at the time. Then I got into exercise classes and some ballet, weights, swimming, etc. I did this religiously 3x/week for about 9 years until my youngest started school (1990?.) After that I stopped exercising except for my fingers on the keyboard. I didn’t find out about my MS until 2005 when I was 57. I just got tired of exercing. And now I just am not motivated even though I know I should. I do run up and down the stairs at home many times a day (we have a trilevel,) but there are some days I sit at my computer all day and keep my senior dog company b/c she cannot walk and I help shelp her out when I think she needs to “go.” I had a a yoga dvd I got from the MS society. Sat on my shelf for longer than I can remember and then one day I tried it a few months ago. It was ok, I almost enjoyed it and thought maybe I would do that more often, but in reality I find I don’t have the patience for it. and it is bacon my shelf. I even have a stairmaster machine in the den. Used it a few times but I just can’t get motivated to do that either.

  • lmitchell76
    6 years ago

    I try to work out at least 5 days a week. I do some at home workout videos. They are not even MS videos (I do have those too). The videos I do have use the same moves as the MS videos but not as slow. I don’t overdo it but I get my workout and I feel better afterwards. I have gained a lot of strength and lost over 60lbs of weight! I was diagnosed in 2009 just a month after my 33rd birthday and 6 days after being diagnosed I suffered a brain hemorrhage stroke and my right arm/hand was paralysed for a few months and my right leg weakened. I did regain the use of my right arm/hand but I knew I needed to make a change. Even to this day when I have an exacerbation it usually (not always) affects my right (weaker) side. I feel that exercising and getting in shape has helped me a whole lot! I encourage anybody to try to exercise no matter what your level of mobility is. There is always a way so don’t give up!

  • Christie Germans author
    6 years ago

    I totally agree. There is something out there for everyone. Glad to hear the videos are helping you keep as strong as possible. Cheers to that!

  • Sharon B
    6 years ago

    I totally agree that we all need to exercise and can see the benefits due to regular exercise. My balance is better and I feel better when I exercise. It is good for the body and the mind. I have worked with personal trainers and know it has helped me in many ways. I used my first trainer after my initial diagnosis because I was determined to stay ahead of the MS by getting fit and staying that way. No matter what your ability is you have to work to maintain or improve yourself.

  • Christie Germans author
    6 years ago

    Exercise is so important for our balance issues. Personal trainers can be so helpful and motivating too. Glad to hear your balance is better and that you feel better.

  • Finerdreams
    6 years ago

    I joined a local gym for women and I go 5 times a week. I ride the stationary bike, weight train and exercises for abs. I’ve lost 25lbs since April. I’m taking it slow. I feel so much better and have more energy now.

  • Christie Germans author
    6 years ago

    It sounds like you found the perfect exercise routine, congrats! So glad to hear that you feel so much better. Cheers!

  • Mora13
    6 years ago

    I started working out a year after I was diagnosed, I call that first year my angry year! I started with basic stuff Zumba, and then I ran in the PF Changs 1/2 Marathon with the MS Rockstars and that was an amazing experience! The best and most beneficial work out for my MS has been boxing by far! It helps with stress, it keeps your endurance up and above all you feel stronger, more confident and more alive! I am currently training for my first fight on Aug. 10th and I am extremely excited!!!

  • Christie Germans author
    6 years ago

    Awesome! Hope you win the fight on the 10th. We’ll all be cheering for you!

  • Sue
    6 years ago

    I have been fortunately to accidentally get set up with a personal trainer who’s mom has MS! I joined a weight loss program at my athletic club and was assigned to a trainer. During that time I was diagnosed and he began tailoring my program to MS. We do lots of balance and stretching, along with core and weight training. Core is everything for someone with MS! I can now walk up and down stairs without holding on, and can walk down the hall at work without bouncing off the walls. Balance is my biggest issue thus far so strengthening my core has been invaluable. Plus having someone encourage me to keep trying is good. And it costs $$ so I’m even more motivated! 🙂

  • Christie Germans author
    6 years ago

    Hey Sue. So glad to hear you are connected with such a good trainer! It sounds like you are in very good hands and have found the right exercise routines – awesome! Strengthening my core is something I sometimes forget and I’m glad you stopped by – you’ve motivated me to ensure I pay attention to this. Take care! Christie

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