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MS Boosts the Importance of Avoiding a Sedentary Lifestyle

MS Boosts the Importance of Avoiding a Sedentary Lifestyle

Multiple sclerosis (MS) can make our bodies experience pain, become weak, and easily fatigue. We can find it difficult just to walk. These challenges can steal our motivation to be active. But without regular activity, we become sedentary, which can increase weakness and fatigue symptoms that cause additional health issues. Our lives can become a vicious cycle of MS symptoms competing with the desire and the need to be active.

Being sedentary can worsen my symptoms, so I make myself get up and move around every hour by walking laps inside my house or standing for as long as I can. I also ride my recumbent bike for 10 to 30 minutes every other day and practice my physical therapy exercises. I force myself to move even when I don’t feel like it because I believe that any movement is better than sitting.

MS symptoms are not the only reason we should try to follow an active lifestyle. The health issues associated with sedentary lifestyles are serious and life-changing. The Mayo Clinic has powerful words to say about inactivity:

“Research has linked sitting for long periods of time with a number of health concerns. They include obesity and a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels — that make up metabolic syndrome. Too much sitting overall and prolonged periods of sitting also seem to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.”

Join the MS forums: an online community especially for patients with MS.

We have enough issues with MS and we don’t need more, so if moving even a little will help, I’m going to do it.

The same article also shared results from an analysis of 13 studies which included data from more than 1 million people. The study found that the mortality risks of sitting for over eight hours a day with no physical activity were similar to those linked to obesity and smoking. But the good news was that “60 to 75 minutes of moderately intense physical activity a day countered the effects of too much sitting.” Another study found that the most active people were least affected by the time they spent sitting.

How do you beat the challenges of being active when you have a chronic disease?

I exercise in short intervals, then rest. This routine works for me because overdoing it causes a setback that takes me a couple of days to recuperate from. If you haven’t been exercising or moving a lot, start slowly. Remember any movement will help. It can be fun to set goals for yourself so you get a real sense of achievement upon reaching those targets.

I believe that being active and eating a healthy diet are two of the most important things we can do to help in our battle with MS.

Please join us in the forums to discuss this topic.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Debi is a retired admissions and marketing director residing in Oregon. She is a mother of three grown children and has three grandchildren. She was diagnosed with PPMS in 2010. With her column, “Faith of the Mustard Seed,” she hopes to help and inspire others who are also dealing with MS.
Debi is a retired admissions and marketing director residing in Oregon. She is a mother of three grown children and has three grandchildren. She was diagnosed with PPMS in 2010. With her column, “Faith of the Mustard Seed,” she hopes to help and inspire others who are also dealing with MS.
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  1. Maggie Harling says:

    Absolutely agree.
    What’s not mentioned in the article is the profound way that exercise can help improve mood. I’ve found that just half an hour of exercise a day(recumbent bike or swimming) can keep the MS blues away. Note: I have to be careful not to overdo it because if I do, I find that the effects are enough to tell myself I don’t have to do it next day…and the next…and the next.

  2. Gary Timlin says:

    I think I stumbled onto the “exercise really helps slow the effects of MS.
    I first had symptoms of a neuralgic problems at about the age of 35. At 43 or 44 I visited a neurologist & was diagnosed with “optic neuritis”. At 46 I was diagnosed by an MRI with “some type of progressive MS” by a different neurologist. She advised me that I should try to get my life in order for needing assistance to even walk. Since this was in 1986, before the internet was in general use, I bought books on peoples experiences with MS & saw a common theme of exercise & mainly “Yoga” seemed to help some people.
    In 1990 I was experiencing walking, numbing of limbs, & some incontinence problems so I bought a book with 3 audio tapes on Hatha Yoga & began a 1 hour per day exercise program. I slowly progressed from beginner to intermittent level of this program. I walked several miles every chance
    I could.
    I held a job that required extensive international air travel & the ability to board large ships from moving pilot or tug boats. I never told my employer that I had MS until my retirement at 59.
    I cut back on the Yoga at about 60 & this was a mistake as I began slowly getting balance & worse walking problems.
    Walking slowly became more difficult & I started to use a walking stick around 65. At about 74 my balance problems cause me to start using a 4 wheel walker.

    I am now 78, still walking, driving, handling the incontinence problems & doing an exercise program under direction of a good Physical Therapist. My only medications used were occasional steroids.
    I chose not to go on the DMD”s as the 4th of 6 neurologist I consulted with over the years told me if they had been available in the 80’s & I had gone on them I would have been 1 of their success story’s.

    • Lianne says:

      Thanks, Gary, for your inspirational story. I am 66 and have had MS since the age of 33. I’m still walking, driving and generally active. I chose not to go on DMD’s also, when they became available, and I guess if I had they would have thought I was a DMD “success story” also.

  3. Amy Zolondek says:

    So so true! I was DX in 2011 age 35. Was told I would be wheelchair bound within the year. But w/ the help of my 13 yr old pug, Fraiser, he keeps me walking 1 mile every morning and 1 mile every evening …. Even if I don’t wanna go, he looks at me in a way that says, “come on, you can do it …!”
    So my MS neuro is just so pleased that 7 yrs later, all I need occasionally is my cane! No wheelchair yet! Thanks to walking & keeping my legs mobile! (And of course thanks to my love pug!)

    • Anita says:

      Me, too. I have 2 dogs, an active Boston Terrier and a French Bulldog. No way in heck I can walk both at the same time. They would drag me all over the sidewalk. 😄 I walk them once a day separately and obviously take them out in the yard throughout the day. That helps me. I still do all the housework, too. 😥 That keeps me active. I do go to the gym as well. Inconsistent though. Need to get better with that.

  4. Mike says:

    15 years ago my neuro said she could give me something for pain or I could exercise. I had never exercised before, but started and found that I enjoyed it and the way it made me feel. Started with MS Pilates classes and lifting weights. Years later I can (mostly) do normal group exercise classes at the gym like Zumba, yoga, pilates, hip hop, kickboxing, and really enjoy them. Exercise really makes a difference. I will always be thankful to her for getting me started.

  5. Frances Robson says:

    I am a member of the MS Gym and highly recommend it for anyone wanting to get stronger and better. It’s a facebook group. Lots of free content, but there is also a paid membership group. Definitely worth the cost of it. I am feeling stronger.

  6. GEOFF FLYNN says:

    I’ve been exercising for 15 years now, I do it because I like it. Whilst I did see gains prior to MS I haven’t seen any since. Exercise makes me worse in the short term (walking and balance) and makes no difference long term. I think there are general health benefits but I don’t think it helps MS symptoms at all.

    • Debi Wilson says:

      Hi Geoff,
      Thank-you for sharing your story. For me, I feel my legs are stronger and I feel better with exercise. I just need to be more consistent! Debi

  7. itasara says:

    You are right! I just can’t motivate myself. Years ago I did the exercise routinely-for 8 years. Then when my kids went to school I found other things to do. My last child went do kindergarten in around 1990. Then I pretty much stopped going to exercise classes and jogging etc. Dion’t miss it. Now I started reading this series with 1000 pg books and sometimes I’ll sit most of the day and evening. I know I should move around more, I just don’t. I think if I had a friend to motivate me it might help. I have a stepper machine in the house… hardly used it. I read these articles and I know I should move more. My eldest son is always after me to exercise; I just have always, except for those younger years, been a sedentary kind of person. Have has MS 13 years but I bet I had it much longer but never had any idea I had anything wrong.

    • Debi Wilson says:

      Thank-you for sharing your story, Itasara! It is hard to get motivated, but,I find even little bursts of exercise help to break up the sitting. Plus, there are great chair core exercises on YouTube that help. I can feel results quickly. My advice is to find something you can do that involves some kind of movement that you enjoy. Best to you, Debi

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