31 Days of MS: How to Make Exercises More Effective

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31 Days of MS

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Day 12 of 31

Dr. Gretchen Hawley is a physical therapist who specializes in treating people with MS. These are her words:

There are five principles that, if integrated into your routine, will provide a bigger bang for your buck when it comes to strengthening and improving your mobility.

1. Doing aerobic exercise before you do your MS-specific exercises can prime your brain for neuroplasticity, aka your brain will be more likely to find new neural pathways or strengthen the pathways that already exist. This will result in improved strength in your muscles over time.

2. Functional exercise is most helpful if you have a goal of improving strength/mobility for an activity. Functional exercise means breaking down the activity into a bunch of smaller movements, then performing those movements as your exercises.

For example, standing up requires scooting forward, bringing your feet wider so they line up with your hips, bending your knees, leaning forward, then pushing to a stand-up position. These movements are separate functional exercises that can be performed for those who have a goal of standing up stronger.

3. High repetitions of good quality movement is the goal. The more repetitions you practice, the more times your brain is attempting to find a neural pathway/connection to help your muscles get stronger. This is neuroplasticity working at its finest.

4. Take lots of rest breaks. The more rest breaks you take, the more likely you can do higher repetitions with good quality movement. Listen to your body and make sure to stop and rest before fatigue sets in or before poor quality movement occurs.

5. Change up the scenery! Practice your exercises in different rooms, with different chairs, etc. This allows more carryover so that you’re able to stand up (or walk, or climb stairs) from many surfaces, not just the one where you always practice.

Multiple Sclerosis News Today’s 31 Days of MS campaign will publish one story per day for Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month in March. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like this, using the hashtag #31DaysofMS, or go here to see the full series.

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