Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord, which results in the loss of muscle control, vision, balance, and sensation. Recent research has established the importance of a daily exercise program for those living with MS. It has been shown that regular exercise improves cardiovascular fitness and overall health and well-being. Those with MS have experienced an improvement in flexibility, balance, and range of motion. Secondary benefits include decreased spasticity, decreased muscle atrophy, and improved management of fatigue. Overall mood is also improved with a decrease in incidence of depression. Research has also indicated that exercise is the key to preventing cognitive decline and reducing stress. Since regular exercise creates an improved feeling of well-being, stress levels are reduced, which ultimately may delay disease progression.
There are four main points for those with MS to keep in mind about exercise:
- Stretch daily. This is important to prevent injury and to maximize flexibility.
- Try different forms of exercise, depending on your physical capabilities. For one person, swimming may be the exercise of choice. Another may prefer yoga or Tai-Chi. Circuit training at a gym may also be an option. Remember that you can exercise even if you are in a wheelchair. And always remember to have your exercise program approved by your physician.
- Stay cool. It is important for the individual with MS to stay cool while exercising due to the fact that many with MS are intolerant to heat. Use cooling vests or exercise in an air-conditioned environment. Stay hydrated with cool water or drinks.
- Cardiovascular exercise is key! Cardiovascular health is crucial to help delay disease progression. And remember, a cardiovascular exercise program can be achieved even if you are in a wheelchair
Magee was recently awarded a grant from the MS Society for wellness promotion in those individuals who are living with MS and who aspire to a healthier lifestyle. The ‘MS Healthy Living Program’ is a weekly program that is held at Magee’s Outpatient Riverfront location. The program aims to assist those living with MS by providing regular educational, recreational, cognitive, and exercise activities. Exercise classes focus on cardiovascular health, resistance training, stretching, and core strengthening. These sessions also incorporate varied activities such as Yoga, Zumba, dance movement therapy, and circuit training. Socialization and stress reduction is enhanced through the use of art and horticultural therapy. The program is held every Thursday from 9 am to 12 noon, followed by light snacks.
If you or someone you know is living with MS, we welcome you to come and join us for this exciting new program! If you wish to register for the program, or if you have any questions, please contact Mary Clare Schafer RN, MS, ONC, CRRN (program director) at 215-218-3905.