The fatigue, mobility and balance issues, and muscle spasms that commonly occur with multiple sclerosis (MS) can make exercising seem impossible. However, staying active is critical to managing MS symptoms, avoiding injuries, and maintaining independence.
Choosing the Right Exercises for You
Even patients with very advanced cases of MS can find a form of exercise that reduces fatigue and inflammation and improves strength and balance.
The most beneficial exercises for those with MS center on four primary focuses: aerobics, strength, flexibility, and balance.
Aerobic Exercises for MS
Aerobic exercise can improve cardiovascular health, fatigue, and mood. Low-impact aerobic exercises include walking, biking, swimming, and using an elliptical machine.
In addition, patients with muscle spasticity in their legs may benefit from using a stationary bike where they can clip in, allowing them to keep their feet on the pedals without extra effort.
Strength Exercises for MS
Resistance training, bodyweight workouts, and progressive strength training using dumbbells or barbells can increase stamina, build muscles, and improve bone density.
Depending on symptoms and mobility, bodyweight workouts, such as pushups or squats, can strengthen muscles without worrying about dropping weights or holding onto resistance bands.
Progressive strength exercises allow you to gradually increase your resistance or weights to build muscle mass and improve physical function. For example, bicep curls, deadlifts, shoulder presses, and rows build upper body strength and allow for progressive muscle building.
Flexibility Exercises for MS
Daily stretching, either from a yoga class or just a few minutes of working on touching toes and moving the spine, can increase the range of motion and decrease muscle spasticity.
Focus on spastic muscles, and aim to hold your stretches for 30 seconds to a minute to fully reap the muscle-lengthening benefits.
Balance Exercises for MS
Balance training focuses on posture, shifting body weight, and creating stability, so patients with MS can reduce their risk of falls and maintain independence. While yoga and Pilates are both beneficial for balance training, even standing on one leg while brushing your teeth or doing the dishes can significantly improve overall balance.
If balancing exercises are challenging, try them next to a wall or while holding onto a chair to maintain stability as your balance improves.
By including daily exercises that allow for long-term benefits, MS patients can regain some control over their condition and symptoms.