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MS Exercise Tips: Stay Safe!

By Daryl H. Bryant (595 words)
Posted in Living with MS on October 25, 2012

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Neurologists strongly recommend that individuals diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis engage in an exercise program two to three times a week. Researchers suggest that physical activity provides many different benefits for people having MS. Regular exercise helps minimize MS symptoms that include bladder and bowel malfunction, depression and fatigue. Exercise also increases flexibility and builds strength. Specialists advise that MS suffers consult with their physician before starting a physical regimen and may refer patients to a physical therapist. {#/pub/images/MSExercise.jpg}After reviewing the patient’s history and performing a physical assessment, therapists often design workout programs specially geared for individual needs. Community MS support groups or the National Multiple Sclerosis Society may also provide patients with information concerning exercise classes specifically tailored for MS or mobility impairment. 

Starting an Exercise Program

While MS patients may feel exuberant at the thought of exercising, moderation remains important. Allow time for warming up before beginning and cooling down after the workout. The type, duration and intensity of the physical exertion differ for each patient. Some may have fewer symptoms, a higher fitness level and overall better health than others. Working with a therapist or other specially trained professional ensures the best type of workout for the greatest benefit. 

The ideology of “no pain, no gain” does not apply to MS patients. Over exertion may lead to fatigue, injury and possibly a diminished desire for participating in an exercise program. Use furniture or railings for maintaining balance. If a workout or particular exercise causes illness or pain, stop. Physical activity does not necessarily limit individuals to a rigorous and boring callisthenic workout. Other recommended activities include swimming, water aerobics, tai chi and yoga. 

Some MS patients experience heat sensitivity with physical exertion. Symptoms might surface or increase in intensity when overheating occurs. Drink plenty of cool fluids before, during and after the workout. Schedule exercise routines during the morning hours when temperatures are typically cooler. If overheating begins, slow down or stop exercising until symptoms subside. 

Exercise Programs

Many MS suffers enjoy yoga. Benefits from this type of program include increased flexibility. Classes generally vary from gentle to extremely intense. Experienced and trained instructors have the knowledge necessary for modifying poses that accommodate the special needs of students. Be aware that some styles of yoga that include Birkram yoga or hot yoga classes require specially heated rooms and may not be advisable for patients having MS. 

Tai chi not only helps to improve balance but also improves cardiovascular health. The exercise routines typically entail controlled, slow movements that diminish MS symptoms, increase flexibility and additionally improve muscle tone. 

Any type of water activity offers buoyancy, which relieves stress on weight bearing parts of the body. The water temperature also often alleviates the possibility of overheating so patients may extend their workout as desired. Swimming tones the body and also offers cardiovascular fitness. While standing in three to four feet of water, aerobics students engage in routines that often include stretching and strengthening exercises. Routines vary from class to class and speaking with instructors beforehand ensures that students participate in a class offering the greatest benefit.

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