Multiple Sclerosis and Exercise

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease in which the immune system attacks and destroys the fatty myelin coating that surrounds and insulates nerve cells, a process known as demyelination. Some of the common symptoms experienced by people with MS include, fatigue, muscle spasms, walking difficulties, and numbness and tingling of the face, body, arms and legs.

Physical activity increases strength and self-confidence and helps reduce the risk of those with MS developing cardiac diseases, bone fractures, and other conditions. One study indicates that lack of exercise and a poor diet are the most common risk factors for those with MS.

The first study on the benefits that exercise can provide to people with MS was published by University of Utah researchers in 1996. The participants improved their cardiovascular, bladder and bowel function, increased their strength, experienced less fatigue, developed a more positive attitude, and suffered fewer bouts of depression.

Exercise programs should fit a person’s capabilities and limitations. The focus should be on the way the exercise is done rather than the number of times it is repeated. An exercise program should be designed under medical supervision and can be adjusted as MS symptoms change. A person with MS should exercise three to four times a week, and avoid workouts in the hottest periods of the day.

MS patients may not think they’re fit enough for cardiovascular exercise. They can still do activities around the home, however. Examples include gardening, cooking or household tasks.

Exercises that can help manage MS symptoms include:

  • Yoga. The word yoga means to join together mind, body and spirit. It includes becoming aware of your  breathing to help relax your mind and body. A person doing yoga can choose positions that fit their physical condition. Benefits of yoga include improving your strength, your balance, your ability to stand or walk, and the alignment of your body. Yoga also teaches you relaxing techniques, such as meditation, that you can use when you’re taking a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan, or receiving an injection.
  • Adaptative Tai Chi. Tai Chi is a Chinese martial art that teaches you how to breathe, relax and slow down your movements. It relieves stress, and improves balance and muscle tone.
  • Water exercises. Moving takes less effort in water. That helps people with MS move in ways they wouldn’t be able to do on land. Benefits include muscle relaxation, better motion, improved flexibility, and reduced pain. The MS Association of America and Sanofi Genzyme produced a 45-minute video – An Introduction to MS Aquatic Fitness – that features a  variety of exercises specially designed for people with MS. They focus on improving balance, strength, motion, mobility and aerobic resistance.

Never forget that it is vital for you to take care of your body to help you manage MS, and exercise can go a long way in helping you do that.


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.

Damian Washington video 2 thumbnail