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Exercise Should Be My Friend

It used to be people diagnosed with MS were most likely facing the eventual loss of walking. Then along came the disease-modifying therapies. Like them or not, DMTs do work for most people in slowing disability progression. What used to be likely progression to the use of a wheelchair has been reduced to a much lower rate. And I for one, am thankful for these drugs.

Exercise, our best ally

But what about the disease itself? It really is not stopped, and for me at least, the progression of my MS is a stark contrast to what I wrote in my introduction – I am slowing down. My physical abilities have changed. It is frustrating and at times even alarming.

I take my drugs regularly, including my DMT. But the research shows we need to do more than just pop the pills and occasionally hook up to the IV for an infusion. Our best ally to go with the pharmaceutical agents is exercise.

Physical therapy redux

My attitude toward exercise has always been it can be evil and not even a necessary one. I’ve gone through periods of aerobic classes, tai chi, and personal trainers. I’ve even done several rounds of physical therapy (PT) at our local neuro-rehabilitation center. When I have a commitment like that I will exercise, and may even almost enjoy doing it once I get in the routine. It’s trying to break through my own resistance to individual independent exercise that has me stymied.

I find myself again referred to PT by my MS neurologist. He knows it will do me good and so do I. It’s remedial PT, because I have been to this center a few other times and it is sort of like repeating second grade over and over. I likely even still have their written instructions complete with illustrations on exercises to do at home somewhere in my stuff, and I could do this on my own as independent homework. It’s not like I don’t know what needs to be done, or lack the equipment of hand weights, balance balls, stretch bands and even a stationary bike at home to use on my own schedule. Starting back at PT requires a phone call on my part, which hasn’t happened.

But it’s good for you

The reality is there are many things in my life that I allow to take priority over exercise, and I imagine a number of you readers can identify with this mindset. Why do we resist so much the very things that can be good for us? I should note I also dislike broccoli.

Beyond just stubbornness on my part, I’m not sure why I put up these mental roadblocks. So, starting this week I’m back on my bike, riding 30 minutes or so a day, and I’m eyeing the other exercise equipment stacked in the corner of the room, knowing it’s waiting for me as well. If you are like me, struggling with an exercise program that you will stick with, know you are not alone.

We can do this!

Wishing you well,

Laura

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.

Comments

  • Kristin
    3 months ago

    The other thing I’ll say is that as a person with PPMS, Targeted exercise and PT are the only ways I can really keep my disease at bay. If I miss more than two days, I began to worsen and lose function. It’s a pretty immediate feedback loop. Keeps me honest.

  • Kristin
    3 months ago

    What works best for me if I’ve fallen off the exercise wagon is to keep my goals small initially. What I want to do is build a habit. So, don’t tell yourself 30 minutes a day every day. Make a commitment to get on the bike for five minutes every other day, No matter what. Chances are, you’ll do more but that five minutes is what will help you establish the habit. Really, you can do anything for five minutes, even tolerate dental surgery.Once you’ve got the habit, you can always add more.

  • Kim Dolce moderator
    3 months ago

    Laura, it’s all true and I can totally relate–but I would also point out via my own experience that some at-home procedures, especially stretches, simply aren’t as effective as when a PT does it. I’ve yet to give myself an effective hamstring stretch using my own arm/hand strength, even while clutching a towel as a sling. Not to mention the wonders of massage therapy that only another person can do to us with the greatest benefit. Massage balls only work if you have command of the rest of your body (I don’t), and stretch bands pull me off balance. Foam rollers are best used on the floor, which is not the place for me if I ever want to get up again. Using a chair for massage balls and rollers was suggested, but in real life it wasn’t doable.

    It’s good to go back to PT time and again, there is no shame in it. For me it’s a chance at relief, a do-over, and another opportunity to tell them what at-home stuff doesn’t work and make them rack their brains for alternatives until we find one that I can do effectively by myself.

    But aside from all of that, the stuff that works for me at home I should do every day several times a day and I don’t it that often. I’m a work in progress, always. Thanks for addressing this important issue we all need to focus on a lot more often.

    –Kim

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