Collaborative Program in Canada Offers Exercise and Social Sessions During Pandemic

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by Mary Chapman |

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, a University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine initiative is offering a free virtual exercise and social connection program to individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) and other neurological conditions, according to a press release.

Called NeuroSask, the initiative is in collaboration with the MS Society of Canada, Parkinson Canada, Spinal Cord Injury Saskatchewan, Office of the Saskatchewan Multiple Sclerosis Clinical Research Chair, and the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation.

The nine-week program began April 23. It uses the Zoom video-conferencing app, and runs Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2 p.m. CST. Each session begins with a 30-minute movement class led by a physiotherapist, and is followed by a 30- to 45-minute “connect” portion that varies weekly.

The program employs evidence-based knowledge about physical activity, mental health, and social support for people with MS, Parkinson’s disease, and spinal cord injuries.

Along with a team of scientists, clinicians, and industry experts, the initiative is led by University of Saskatchewan scientists Sarah Donkers, a physiotherapist and assistant professor, and Katherine Knox, a physiatrist and associate professor.

Today (April 28) a movement session will be followed by a presentation from clinical psychologist Stockdale Winder, PhD,  who will discuss mental health wellness. That segment will include a question-and-answer opportunity.

On Thursday (April 30) Knox will talk about approaches to common neurological symptoms, including spasticity, pain, and sensory changes.

In the first session, held April 23, a physiotherapist led seated participants in a movement class. After that, there was an “Ask the Experts” panel featuring Saskatchewan physicians and neurological specialists Alex Rajput, Gary Linassi, and Michael Levin.

Upcoming social connect topics will include mental health, diet, musical entertainment, mindfulness, and caregiver support.

Participants need to register only once for the entire program. Registrants will receive an email each Monday and Wednesday evening outlining the upcoming session and providing a link. Up to 1,000 people can register. The program is free.

Questions and program suggestions can by emailed to [email protected]

Globally, more than 2.3 million people have MS. With an estimated 77,000 patients, Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world.

In related news, a large review study published in the journal BMC Neurology suggests that exercise can ease fatigue in MS patients, and should be part of patient rehabilitation programs.

 

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