Susan E. Bennett, a specialist in multiple sclerosis (MS) rehabilitation, reinforced the importance of exercise for MS patients to improve quality of life, during the June 1-4 2016 Annual Meeting of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers (CMSC), in National Harbor, Md.
“Everybody should be exercising. If you have MS it is even more important that you exercise.” said Dr. Bennett, a clinical professor at the departments of Rehabilitation Science and Neurology at the University of Buffalo (UB), and an associate in the UB Neurosurgery department at CMSC 2016.
Over the last two decades, a substantial amount of evidence regarding the benefits of exercise for MS patients has been published. Although exercise has not been shown to slow the progression of MS, it can help increase patients energy, improve balance, decrease muscle atrophy, manage spasticity, and allow patients to better perform daily activities.
Recent studies have also shown that exercise may prevent cognitive decline and decrease depression in MS patients, elevating the overall sense of well-being.
It is common knowledge that proper rehabilitation programs for stroke patients can rewire the brain to become more active, and to train unaffected regions of the brain to connect the affected side of the body.
“We’ve seen the exact same thing happening in MS,” said Dr. Bennett.
“Back in the 1990s the talk was ‘If you have MS go home and lie in a couch. Don’t overheat yourself’. Now what’s been shown is 20 minutes of moderate exercise with someone with MS actually promotes the secretion of brain-derived growth factor,” she said. “The chemical BDNF is present during the first two years of life when the brain is highly active and molding, a lot of dendritic synapses are forming, and the whole central nervous system is becoming myelinated. We can actually trigger BDNF to be secreted again with 20 minutes of moderate exercise.”
Although BDNF is only secreted for four weeks after the training exercise, it gives patients an opportunity to start rehabilitation programs that trigger reorganization of the brain.
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