THE REMARKABLE BENEFITS OF EXERCISE FOR MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
Living with multiple sclerosis (MS) presents a unique set of challenges, both physical and emotional. However, one powerful tool has emerged as a game-changer in managing this chronic condition: exercise. While it may seem counterintuitive to engage in physical activity when faced with MS symptoms, research and personal experiences have shown that exercise can bring about significant benefits. In this blog post, we will explore the remarkable advantages of exercise for individuals living with MS, highlighting how it can empower them to lead healthier, more fulfilling lives.
Understanding Multiple Sclerosis:
Before we dive into the benefits of exercise, let’s briefly understand MS. It is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the protective covering of nerve fibers in the central nervous system. As a result, communication between the brain and the body is disrupted, leading to a wide range of symptoms, including fatigue, muscle weakness, balance issues, and coordination difficulties.
The Power of Exercise:
Regular structured exercise delays MS progression by 27%. Let’s explore some of the benefits of exercise:
Improved Strength and Endurance:
Exercise helps build and maintain muscle strength, which is crucial for combating MS-related weakness and improving overall functional capacity. Engaging in resistance training exercises, such as lifting weights or using resistance bands, can enhance muscular strength and endurance, making daily tasks easier to perform.
Enhanced Balance and Coordination:
MS often affects balance and coordination, increasing the risk of falls and injuries. Exercise programs that focus on balance training, such as yoga or tai chi, can help improve stability and reduce the likelihood of falls. Additionally, specific coordination exercises can enhance the connection between the brain and muscles, leading to improved motor control.
Increased Energy and Reduced Fatigue:
Fatigue is a common and debilitating symptom of MS. Paradoxically, exercise has been shown to reduce fatigue and increase energy levels. Engaging in regular physical activity can enhance cardiovascular fitness, boost circulation, and stimulate the release of endorphins, resulting in improved energy levels and a sense of well-being.
Positive Impact on Mental Health:
Living with a chronic condition like MS can take a toll on mental health. Exercise, however, acts as a natural mood booster. Physical activity releases endorphins, which are known to elevate mood and reduce stress levels. Incorporating exercise into a daily routine can contribute to improved mental well-being, reduced anxiety, and depression, and enhanced overall quality of life.
Cognitive impairments, such as memory loss and difficulty with concentration, can occur in MS. Exercise has shown promising results in promoting brain health and cognitive function. Aerobic exercises have been associated with improved cognitive performance and neuroprotective effects.
Disease Progression Management:
While exercise cannot cure MS, research suggests that it may slow down disease progression. Regular physical activity has been linked to a reduction in the number and severity of relapses, as well as a slower accumulation of disability over time. Moreover, exercise can help manage other conditions associated with MS, such as cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.
Exercise holds tremendous potential for individuals living with multiple sclerosis. From improved strength and endurance to enhanced balance, reduced fatigue, and positive effects on mental health, engaging in regular physical activity can transform the lives of those with MS. It is crucial to work with healthcare professionals and tailor an exercise program that suits individual abilities and preferences. By harnessing the power of exercise, individuals with MS can take charge of their well-being, maximize their physical and cognitive abilities, and embrace a more empowered and fulfilling life.
Physiotherapy and Exercise Physiology is an indispensable tool in the management of multiple sclerosis. By focusing on symptom management, improving mobility, and enhancing overall well-being, physiotherapists empower individuals to regain control over their lives. Through a holistic and personalised approach, they help individuals with MS navigate the challenges of their condition and work towards a fulfilling and active life. If you or a loved one is living with MS, consider incorporating physiotherapy into your care plan, and witness the transformative power it can bring to your journey of living with MS
By Tarryn Jeftha – Physiotherapist