Study Finds Physical Activity and Exercise Have Considerable Health Benefits for MS Patients

Patricia Silva, PhD avatar

by Patricia Silva, PhD |

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In a recent study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, a team of researchers from Germany identified an association between increased physical activity and improved mental health in patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Based on the results, the researchers believe that physical activity and exercise have considerable health benefits for MS patients.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the central nervous system that mainly affects young adults. Brain inflammation in MS often leads to functional impairments and reduced mobility, which is associated with both low levels of physical activity and reduced health-related quality of life (HRQoL) compared to healthy people.

Physical inactivity and the resulting symptoms and comorbidities have the potential to further decrease health status and HRQoL in MS. It has been shown that exercise has the capability to alleviate MS-specific symptoms and functional deficits. Exercise has proven effective in improving walking ability as well as muscle strength and aerobic capacity.

Quality of life in MS patients is generally worse than in the general population, and as the disease progresses, it is even lower in patients with progressive MS compared to patients with relapsing-remitting MS. Since MS patients are not only concerned about physical disability but also work limitations, social status, and emotional aspects, quality of life can dramatically worsen, even at a point when physical disability has yet to become a major problem.

In order to examine the association between physical activity and mental health in multiple sclerosis patients with or without limitation of physical function, in the study titled “Mental Health in Multiple Sclerosis Patients without Limitation of Physical Function: The Role of Physical Activity,” Mathias Mäurer from the Caritas Krankenhaus Bad Mergentheim gGmbH in Uhlandstr, Germany and colleagues assessed a total of 632 MS patients using the Baecke questionnaire on physical activity, the Short Form 36 Health Survey (SF-36), and Beck Depression Inventory (BDI).

The results showed that active and inactive patients did not differ considerably in physical function. In contrast, mental subscales of the SF-36 were higher in active patients. Remarkable and significant differences were found regarding vitality, general health perception, social functioning and mental health, all in favor of physically active patients.

Based on these results, the researchers concluded that physical activity and exercise have a considerable health benefit for MS patients and, consequently, should represent an essential part of successful symptom management in MS therapy, especially in early disease stages.

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