Exercise Part 2
Working out the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
– It is recommended that individuals living with MS should have at least 150 minutes of exercise a week
– The beneficial effects of exercise on multiple sclerosis have been shown in some clinical studies.
– Always consult your healthcare provider to discuss a possible exercise routine that accommodates your current fitness and capabilities.
Living with Multiple Sclerosis:
Multiple sclerosis can bring about a wide range of symptoms that may affect your daily life. Depending on the type and severity of your symptoms, implementing multiple approaches to treat and manage your MS symptoms may be beneficial. In this article, we discuss findings from scientific studies regarding the benefits of exercise in improving mood and physical endurance as well as alleviating fatigue and pain. We will also provide additional resources regarding exercise and MS at the end of the article.
Feeling down or depressed?
Based on current literature, it is estimated that between 20-50% of individuals living with MS exhibits varying degrees of depression1. Furthermore, individuals with MS are 3 times more likely to develop depression compared to the general population1. Listed below are a few signs of depression collated from the National Institute of Mental Health2:
– Lingering feeling of sadness, anxiety or “empty” mood
– Easily irritated
– Issues with sleep or difficulties sleeping
– Suicidal tendencies
A complete list of depression symptoms can be found on the National Institute of Mental Health page. If you feel that any of these symptoms relate to you, please consult your healthcare provider for assistance.
For individuals who may be living with MS and depression, the National MS society recommends daily exercise. In fact, a recent publication in 2020 recommends at least 150 minutes of exercise per week for individuals living with MS3. Exercises such as yoga, treadmill walking and cycling has been reported to reduce the severity of depression in MS patients4,5. For individuals who are unable to perform such activities due to the afflictions of MS, aquatic exercises could be a possible alternative due to the buoyant nature of the human body. This buoyancy reduces the bodily stress from exercising as well as the risk of falls due to instability. A publication from Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine reported that MS participants who performed hydrotherapy have experienced a reduction in depression for up to 4 weeks post-treatment6. Hence, individuals experiencing depression could adopt any of the aforementioned physical activities as a plausible coping strategy.
Fatigue is a commonly experienced symptom; In fact, a study investigating fatigue in MS patients found that ~58% of their participants were affected by it7. Numerous studies have found that exercise can help alleviate fatigue in MS patients. These exercises include yoga, treadmill walking, arm exercises and aquatic exercises4–6,8. Furthermore, it was noted that MS participants who cycle experienced an improvement in alertness and learning5. However, it is advised that individuals living with MS should consider their medical and physical capabilities to minimize the risk to their safety.
Feeling like you’re not as nimble as you used to be?
Exercises such as treadmill walking and yoga have been shown to improve physical endurance in individuals with MS4. Furthermore, performance such as walking speed could be improved through task-specific exercises such as treadmill walking4. Interestingly, an individual’s walking abilities was improved through cycling exercises too5. One plausible reason was that the ability for the individual to stabilize may contribute to their walking performance. Therefore, individuals may adopt these physical activities to improve their movement speeds and abilities.
Experiencing pain or a lack of control?
Pain is a common symptom which an estimated 43-63% of individuals with MS experience9,10. Furthermore, individuals may experience a loss of independence as the severity of their condition worsens. Nevertheless, the progression, persistence or severity of these afflictions may be reduced through exercise. In fact, hydrotherapy was found to reduce pain and spasms for up to 10- and 4-weeks post-treatment respectively6. Additionally, it improved participants perception of their physical disability and performance in daily activities6. Thus, individuals who experience pain or reduced functional independence may favour the possible benefits of hydrotherapy.
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic condition that has life-altering impacts. However, it has been shown through numerous clinical studies that exercise can help alleviate certain symptoms. individuals living with MS should consult their healthcare provider to develop an exercise routine that is suitable for their fitness level while minimizing the risk of injury and fall.
AnthoBio Inc is a Canadian biomedical research company dedicated to providing safe and natural therapeutic options for individuals living with multiple sclerosis. The AnthoBio team takes pride in their evidence-based approach in developing a natural product that is safe, accessible, and affordable for individuals to help them live better with their MS.
- Patten SB, Marrie RA, Carta MG. Depression in multiple sclerosis. Int Rev Psychiatry. 2017 Sep 3;29(5):463–72.
- Depression (NIMH) [Internet]. [cited 2021 Jul 16]. Available from: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/
- Kalb R, Brown TR, Coote S, Costello K, Dalgas U, Garmon E, et al. Exercise and lifestyle physical activity recommendations for people with multiple sclerosis throughout the disease course. Mult Scler Houndmills Basingstoke Engl. 2020 Oct;26(12):1459–69.
- Ahmadi A, Arastoo AA, Nikbakht M, Zahednejad S, Rajabpour M. Comparison of the Effect of 8 weeks Aerobic and Yoga Training on Ambulatory Function, Fatigue and Mood Status in MS Patients. Iran Red Crescent Med J. 2013 Jun;15(6):449–54.
- Briken S, Gold SM, Patra S, Vettorazzi E, Harbs D, Tallner A, et al. Effects of exercise on fitness and cognition in progressive MS: a randomized, controlled pilot trial. Mult Scler Houndmills Basingstoke Engl. 2014 Mar;20(3):382–90.
- Castro-Sánchez AM, Matarán-Peñarrocha GA, Lara-Palomo I, Saavedra-Hernández M, Arroyo-Morales M, Moreno-Lorenzo C. Hydrotherapy for the Treatment of Pain in People with Multiple Sclerosis: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Evid-Based Complement Altern Med ECAM. 2012;2012:473963.
- Nagaraj K, Taly AB, Gupta A, Prasad C, Christopher R. Prevalence of fatigue in patients with multiple sclerosis and its effect on the quality of life. J Neurosci Rural Pract. 2013;4(3):278–82.
- Kargarfard M, Etemadifar M, Baker P, Mehrabi M, Hayatbakhsh R. Effect of Aquatic Exercise Training on Fatigue and Health-Related Quality of Life in Patients With Multiple Sclerosis. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2012 Oct 1;93(10):1701–8.
- Drulovic J, Basic-Kes V, Grgic S, Vojinovic S, Dincic E, Toncev G, et al. The Prevalence of Pain in Adults with Multiple Sclerosis: A Multicenter Cross-Sectional Survey. Pain Med. 2015 Aug 1;16(8):1597–602.
- Solaro C, Brichetto G, Amato MP, Cocco E, Colombo B, D’Aleo G, et al. The prevalence of pain in multiple sclerosis. Neurology. 2004 Sep 14;63(5):919.