How exercise can help people with MS

How exercise can help people with MS
Graphic by Kimberley Mogg

People with Multiple Sclerosis are being encouraged to pop on their pumps and get more active as part of MS Awareness Week.

National organisation, the MS Trust says in the past people with the condition were advised to avoid exercise. It was felt that since many people with MS experienced fatigue and found their symptoms worsened when hot, it was best to avoid activities that could be seen as tiring.

Now, the trust wants to dispel this myth and says regular, moderate exercise is known to be an important part of maintaining good health and wellbeing for people with MS. There is evidence that it can help with many MS symptoms, and also with general quality of life.

‘Increased strength and reduction in fatigue’

A recent survey conducted by the MS Trust highlighted the positive impact exercise can have, with respondents listing improvements in their mental health, increased strength and reduction in fatigue as the main benefits of staying active with MS.

Throughout MS Awareness Week the MS Trust will be promoting the benefits of staying active for people with MS; encouraging the MS community to introduce activity – or continue it – on a regular basis. Walking, swimming, wheelchair basketball, dance, yoga, gardening . . . it’s all about doing it YOUR way.

The charity is also launching a series of accessible Pilates workouts, developed alongside a neuro-physiotherapist, which people can follow at home.

Paralympic swimmer Stephanie Millward MBE, who was diagnosed with MS aged 18, is supporting the MS Trust’s latest campaign. She said: “I fully support this incredible campaign as I know all too well the importance of activity. For me, it makes me so happy and positive but also keeps my MS symptoms in check.

Stephanie Millward

“People will guess that I will advocate swimming and, of course, I do as I attempt to win an eleventh medal at my fourth Paralympic Games, in Tokyo 2020. But I am delighted to be given an opportunity to recommend to other people with MS, to try anything active that appeals and just see if it makes a difference.

“Besides the pool, I use the gym three times a week, which I love and have a specific programme, but I have gained so much core-strength from a weekly horse-riding session (thanks to Riding for the Disabled) and only this year was I introduced to yoga. To anyone reading this, I urge you to try some exercise, no matter what it is.

‘Don’t make my mistake’

“Following my MS diagnosis in 1999, I did nothing for the best part of eight years – literally nothing and suffered as a consequence – until I was persuaded to get back into a pool. Please try some gentle exercise and don’t make the same mistake I did for all those years – good luck!”

David Martin, CEO of the MS Trust, added: “Research shows us that regular and moderate exercise has many benefits for people living with MS, both physically and mentally. We hope that by shining a spotlight on exercise during MS Awareness Week, we can encourage people with MS all over the UK to introduce a little activity into their daily routine.

“We recognise that MS can affect people in many different ways and not everyone will be able to go for a run, get to a pool, or go to the gym, so our campaign is all about making exercise as accessible as possible.”