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‘Just Move’ Isn’t Enough

There are only a few more sessions of water exercise for my local MS group until we take a break until the fall. We will be out of the pool for six weeks, which can be a long time when you are used to doing organized activities. This is the fourth year for the program and I can just about bet that the same will happen that has happened the past three years – we will go our separate ways and completely forget about any form of exercise until we meet up again in September.

Making a commitment

Many of us, especially me, need that class time obligation to get up and get moving. Each week I grudgingly attend, knowing I have made that commitment to myself and others and I almost always feel better after I have done an hour in the water. There isn’t much we do in the water that can’t be done on dry land – we are just lacking the buoyancy and the extra cushioning should we fall.

It’s okay to start small

Many of the big headlines lately about living with MS have to do with physical activity – the message over and over is exercise is good for the body and the brain, and we should do as much as we can. It’s ok to start small and build up to longer stretches of exercises but the key here is we have to start. I’ve had personal trainers through a special program and I faithfully attended those sessions and did the workouts – it was a commitment/obligation much like the aquatics classes. If someone else is counting on me to attend, I will go.

Why is it so hard to get motivated?

So why is it so hard to count on myself and get motivated to exercise on my own? It’s not the lack of equipment – I have everything from hand weights to a treadmill, elliptical machine, and stationary bike. All of those were purchased for my husband’s use – and he was good about it for many years but now the equipment sits idle. Fortunately, it is in my basement and I don’t have to look at it regularly and feel guilt, but I still know it is there if I would want to use it.

Designing mini-workouts in my head

I certainly know all the exercises that I can/should do, after all these years of being in the gym for classes. I often design mini-workouts in my mind, thinking things like “just spend ten minutes doing weight lifting” (small hand ones, of course) while you are watching TV and my flabby arms will be fit and toned in no time. The problem is I rarely watch TV, or at least that’s my excuse. Then today I thought if I set an alarm on my phone and it reminded me to stop typing on the computer and lift weights for ten minutes, that would be a good start, but I haven’t done so, yet. I can’t use not knowing how to set an alarm as the excuse.

Just walking can make a difference

A few years ago, I lost significant weight by walking – yes, just walking and some minor dietary changes. I began with short distances pacing in front of my house and built up to longer stretches. And then something happened and I stopped – blame it on the wet weather, the hot weather, winter weather – anything you want to pick that would keep me indoors. And then the MS made walking a challenge – and now when I walk it is more like a wobble and can’t get up a very beneficial pace. I know it is good for me, but doing it is a different thing.

There are research studies being done at the Cleveland Clinic on how to motivate those of us with MS to exercise on our own – I was accepted into the study and then there was a conflict with their online group sessions time – ironically, they were being held at the same time as my aquatics program. A year later, I am still waiting for them to start another group, because I sure could use it.

What tactics do you use to get moving?

If you have a secret tactic to get yourself up and moving, I sure would love to hear it, because I’m entering that extended period with no commitment and no motivation. What’s gets you moving?

Wishing you well,


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


  • AJoy
    5 years ago

    THANK-YOU for the article!
    …and THANK-YOU fedupandconfused! It can be VERY stressful, as an MS patient, to be bombarded, in all of the media/literature that people read, that exercise will help keep you functional. Yes, it would have been nice if I had been able to exercise more at the beginning. Maybe if I had already been an athletic individual, I might have. But I started having symptoms in 1993- while taking my daily walk I was losing feeling in my upper legs. I was not diagnosed until 2005, because almost all of my symptoms seems to “disappear”. The HUGE problem, that has always been at issue for me, certainly since the early 90s, has been FATIGUE. Its hard enough to explain to someone that Fatigue isn’t just “I’m tired”, and doesn’t necessarily “go away” with a “nap”. Since the Dx, its been even harder to deal with. At first I had tried so hard to get motivated to walk even more regularly, even got a bike, so I could ride. But every time I got off the bike from a short ride, I lost feeling in my legs.
    For some of us, it IS far more than just motivation even. If I try to spend time exercising, there is a good chance it will be even harder for me to accomplish the everyday tasks- working at the computer, cleaning the house, making dinner, grocery shopping, etc. I have been doing PT, and just started an adaptive Yoga class. I walk with the walker as much as I can, through the mall with my teenage daughter. But very often, I find that those things will take their toll on the rest of my abilities for at least the rest of the day. Some days just the thought of having to drive to a class or appt is exhausting.
    My Mom also has MS, and years ago, before my dx, I used to tell her that she should be “Doing” more. Now that I have MS, I understand, that there is SO much more to it than that.

  • marie
    5 years ago

    Hi Marcia our stories seem very similar. I too diagnosed at 35 & now 40 stiffness is worse and sadly can only work out minimally. I also get that you want to save energy for other things. I want to save energy to spend time with my husband, and lets face it if its time spent “well” that could be considered exercise too.

  • Marcia
    5 years ago

    You know, after reading more of these comments, I want to add that I also want to save my energy for other things. It’s hard for me to explain this to others though.

  • Marcia
    5 years ago

    Hi Laura,
    What gets me moving each and every time unless it’s not possible lol, is telling myself that I don’t want to be in a wheelchair God willing. My uncle has ms too and he lives in a home and has to use a wheelchair. I know we all have differences in our illness, but my stiffness is getting worse and I’m only 40, I was diagnosed at 35. I was a gym rat up till this April and it’s killing me that I cancelled my membership because I don’t have the strength to lift weights and I can only use cardio equipment for 20 mins when before I could go hours. But because I’m so stubborn, I continue to walk outside in the evenings, I live in Florida so the heat and sun are a big no no for me. Also I read that you can divide exercise during your day instead of all at once. So I do that too. My husband bought a bike elliptical combo, I use this too when I can. I do indoor exercises too when I can. Staying out of the wheelchair is my motivator and so far it’s working. ☺Good luck to you all and I pray wellness for each of you. God bless.

  • marie
    5 years ago

    I tend to look at any activity I do that gets my heart rate up and causes me to sweat as exercise. Lately I’ve been fortunate enough to go on walks a few times a week and then come home and do some BOSU ball exercises for core, legs, and arms. However when I can’t go do that for fear I wont make it home, I start cleaning. When I clean I am killing two birds with one stone. If I’m having a bad leg day I sit on the floor and dust all reachable items. If its an ok day I see how much vacuuming I can get in. I know that at any time I can lose the function to do something else that I love, I’ve been told that exercise can help slow that and that core exercises will really help me if I end up in a wheelchair. So every time I don’t FEEL like exercising I envision that day I won’t be able to do anything.

  • Sue
    5 years ago

    Let me add to what I said below that I know not everyone is able to work out. But I have been around many who can but have been advised not to by medical and non-medical personnel. My heart goes out to those who cannot, as I am likely headed in that direction. But to those who can, DO! I think it’s been demonstrated that working on fitness (and balance and all of that) can sustain your mobility much longer than avoiding it.

  • fedupandconfused
    5 years ago

    By the time I’ve done anything physical including shopping or cleaning I am absolutely done in and in agonizing pain my legs jump about and I can’t sit still until strong pain killers have kicked in and exhaustion finally make me sleep. Whilst it’s wonderful that some MS patients can exercise not everyone with MS can get up and go and we need to make that point clear as some of the medical profession and friends and family already don’t understand MS symptoms and think some MS patients are lazy or lack motivation which is neither fair nor accurate. It’s great to share experiences however we need to remember not everyone with MS is the same in terms of their mobility capabilities and restrictions and just because some people are able to exercise doesn’t mean those that can’t are less motivated or can’t be bothered either. I guess everyone has to know their limitations and we need to keep in mind every MS patient is different.

  • Sue
    5 years ago

    My experience is similar to liza’s in that I have been working with personal trainers since February of 2013 (and I was diagnosed in April 2013). I am 55 years old and now in the best shape of my life! I know that everyone is different, but I believe that regular exercise – cardio plus weight training) is CRITICAL to maintenance. I have a friend who studied this will completing her DPT and came to the same conclusion. The days of sitting around because you have this debilitating disease are over, one way or another. I know it’s hard to keep going and I don’t always want to work out, but having someone to account to does help, plus it’s totally addictive once you really get into it! Diet is a huge part of it too – don’t think you can eat whatever you want if you exercise. Even my trainers have all said that a good diet is more than half of the reason you have success in becoming more fit. So I say go for it!

  • Mspbfh2
    5 years ago

    Everyone says exercise…and i always mean to, but when it takes me three hrs to vacuum and then I am DONE for the rest of the day, exercise isn’t high on my list of things to do. Even before the dx, the only really exercise I did was swimming so it wasn’t a habit. We have all the same types of equipment but just can’t motivate myself to use. Part of that I’m sure is depression, which I’m going to talk to the neuro about this week. That is a life long problem, and right now it is worse, probably because of other stressors like my dad dying and fighting with my sisters. So I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and trying to get what exercise I can by doing housework.

  • Beth
    5 years ago

    Before my mother passed, she and I talked daily and she always asked me about my exercise. I now exercise daily, because she is looking down and smiling at me!
    Miss her every day:(

  • liza
    5 years ago

    I found that joining a gym and, most importantly, signing up with a trainer who is good with people with MS, is what has forced me to exercise in spite of myself. Just knowing I’m going to see the trainer once a week makes me go several other times. He also shows me how to use equipment that can make stuff less boring so I can have a lot of variety in my routine. He works with me on balance and strengthening weak muscles, etc. But a good gym, not just a massive, everyone on the treadmill place, is also key.

  • Brenda
    5 years ago

    I have had MS for 30 years and have always enjoyed exercise even before my diagnosis. I have recently become a personal trainer because I want to teach people to exercise safely and enjoy all the benefits of all the hard work that goes into each workout. My motivation for you would be that every one benefits from exercise and what ever mode you chose to do, think that you are doing it for your own health because no one can do it for you! Just stay positive and do as much as you are able because it is better than writing or talking about it! Good Luck!!!!

  • Debbie S.
    5 years ago

    I wish I knew what would get me moving. I know all the things I should be doing, and I often intend to start water therapy but haven’t done it yet. I have PPMS and a limited amount of energy each day. I know how exhausted I feel when I do exercise or just about anything, and even though I know how beneficial it is I still would rather use that little bit of energy on something I enjoy. I feel like I’m running out of time to be able to do fun things. I would love for exercise to be fun for me again, but I don’t know how to get there!

  • Faith French
    5 years ago

    It’s nice to know I’m not alone Debbie and Peaches. My PPMS was w a cane, and a scooter for 13 years. When told to, I started to exercise for the 1st time in my life. With little energy and lots of heat intolerance, I did 30 mins twice a week. After about 6 weeks, my cane and scooter were put in storage. That was 1 1/2 yrs ago. My physical and mental life is so much better. I can only afford home exercise, and that makes lack of motivation my new enemy. It’s not easy to ask 65 yr old partner to be more involved and help when I want a lifestyle different from what he wants.

    Any suggestions are greatly appreciated. I aiming to have less need to ask for help.

  • Peaches
    5 years ago

    Oh Debbie, I feel like you wrote my story! I too have limited mobility and limited energy. Everything is an effort. I used to have a therapist come to the house 2-3x week and it was great!! Unfortunately due to finances that ended 🙁 and now I don’t drive so transportation is limited. I have all the equipment in my basement too, somehow laundry always takes precedence hehe.

    I’m open for motivation tricks too !!

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