Studies show that exercise improves both physical and mental symptoms in people with MS, relieving fatigue and depression, improving spasticity, and improving bowel and bladder symptoms. But just as MS can be different for each individual, exercise programs should be tailored to that individual's needs and abilities. Find a good physical therapist and devise a plan that's right for your loved one. In the meantime, think of exercise as a way to relax, not a chore. Here are some of the possibilities:
Aerobic Activity With MS
Exercises that raise pulse and respiration rate have been proven to mitigate some symptoms of MS. But aerobics don't have to be high impact; treadmills, stationary bicycles, and cross-country ski machines are some types of equipment that do the trick. Fifteen minutes of aerobic activity per day is ideal -- but you can split up the time into three five-minute sessions.
Swimming With MS
Water allows people with MS to move in ways they can't on land, and swimming, aqua therapy, and water aerobics allow greater range of motion, muscle relaxation, and ability to work on balance and coordination. They also provide a great way to keep body temperature under control. Check with the National MS Society to see if there's a class near you.
Yoga With MS
Those stretchy yoga moves combined with mindful breathing are known to increase flexibility, reduce stress, and improve strength. Some classes also offer sit-down yoga.
Tai Chi With MS
Composed of slow, gentle movements, this Chinese martial art can even be performed sitting down, and it promotes balance and relieves stress. For more information, contact the American Tai Chi and Qigong Association.
Hippotherapy (Therapeutic Horseback Riding) With MS
When supervised by an occupational or physical therapist, the rhythmic motions of a horse can relax the rider and help him or her work on balance, endurance, and coordination.
Adaptive Dancing With MS
Wheelchair dancing has become popular all over the world, such as couple dancing, group line dancing, and tap dancing.
Additional Tips for Exercising With MS
Warm up and cool down.
Anyone who exercises should warm up with stretches first. These might consist of rotating wrists, ankles, and neck and doing some gentle waist bends. At the end of an exercise session, make sure to slow down, sit down and rest, and cool down before turning to other activities.
Turn down the heat.
Use cooling vests while exercising and drink plenty of cool liquids. Time the exercise to avoid the hotter periods of the day.
Watch out for fatigue.
Don't overdo it. If your loved one with MS feels tired, it's time to stop.