Resistance Training Can Slow MS Patients’ Brain Shrinkage, Clinical Trial Indicates
Resistance training like weight lifting can protect or even regenerate the nerve cells of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis patients, slowing the progression of the disease, according to a clinical trial. A hallmark of MS is the brain shrinking faster than normal, and findings from this trial indicates that resistance training can slow the shrinking or even make some brain areas grow. Research has shown that physical training benefits MS patients, helping them alleviate many symptoms, including excessive fatigue and balance control problems. Recent studies suggest that exercise can have a disease-modifying role in MS. This means physical activity can be an important adjuvant, or add-on therapy, for standard-of-care regimens. Researchers followed 35 patients with relapsing-remitting MS for 24 weeks. Eighteen patients did resistance training twice a week, consisting of four lower- and two upper-body exercises. The other 17 patients struck with their normal routines. Before and after the 24 weeks, doctors took magnetic resonance imaging scans, or MRIs, to evaluate patients' brain structures. After the 24 weeks, the scans showed less brain shrinkage in those who had resistance training. Some of their cortical brain regions were also thicker — an indication they were growing. It is not clear why exercise benefits MS patients' brains, nor if exercise has the same effect on all patients. Additional studies are needed to clarify its therapeutic effect, the researchers said. That knowledge could help improve current MS therapies.