New Analysis Suggests Some MS Patients Need Extra Encouragement For Physical Activity

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physical activity and MSA secondary analysis of data from a previous trial of an Internet-based exercise intervention in patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) suggests that the program wasn’t as effective on the subgroups of MS patients to whom physical activity is more important, reports John Gever from Medpage Today.

The global numbers of the first analysis, released last year by the same website, suggested that patients who were part of a 6-month intervention group (the ones who received the Internet-program’s guidance) had increased average daily step counts from about 4,000 to almost 5,500, reported Lara Pilutti, PhD, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) at the time. In addition, the group showed improvements in scores of “depression, anxiety, fatigue, and physical ability.”

The intervention consisted of creating two randomized groups from 82 patients. The first group was provided online information for MS patients on how they could improve their levels of physical activity, and provided them with a live coaching video, also conducted online. The researchers gave participants a pedometer to record their daily walking steps in a dairy.

The second group didn’t get encouragement or coaching during this phase of the trial.

By analyzing the participants’ profile instead of only the global numbers of the intervention group, researchers saw that the increase in physical activity wasn’t common to all of the participants. Some of them even had contradictory data, as they revealed a decrease in physical activity.

The improvements were reflected in mildly disabled patients, in non-obese patients, and in relapsing-remitting MS patients. On the contrary, the intervention had no effect in moderately disabled patients, in Progressive MS patients and in overweight patients.

This allowed the research group to currently conclude that the intervention wasn’t effective for patients most in need of therapeutic intervention, and the ones who would gain the most benefit from physical activity saw an increase in fitness.

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This is one of the reasons why Dr. Robert Motl, PhD and head of the intervention team, believes it is useful to “modify and refine interventions,” because they “may need to be tailored more specifically to these patients to increase the chances of success.”

The first data analysis done last year also suggested to researchers that there is a match between the improvements in physical activity and a 2.1-hour reduction in time spent sitting by the intervention group that completed the study in comparison with the control group that also completed the study.

Furthermore, researchers asked participants to estimate their average daily time spent sitting over the course of the last 7 days of the study. Researchers observed that the average was, in fact, lower in the intervention group than in the control group.

However, according to another researcher, Rachel Klaren, these results don’t answer if reduction in sitting time leads to health benefits and which factors are associated with sedentarism in MS patients. More research is needed to develop a clearer picture of MS patients and physical activity.

Internet-based programs are being used by scientists as a helpful tool to measure these benefits. The Lung Disease News website recently published a similar research method involving a group of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). They were also given an internet-based pedometer that seems to have helped to increase physical exercise in those patients.

In addition, the benefits of physical activity seem to be unquestionable in patients suffering from several diseases.  In another article on BioNews Texas, scientists also concluded that “regular exercise has been associated with reduced risk of hospitalization for exacerbated COPD and mortality among patients with COPD.”

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