The Importance of Exercise for People Living with MS
Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the body's nervous system (brain, spine). The disease attacks the protecting covering of nerves, known as myelin, causing inflammation and damage to the covering.
When damage is minor, nerve impulses will still deliver without much interruption. But when the damage is enough that scar tissue begins to replace the myelin, nerve impulses can be completely blocked.
And while extreme fatigue is a common symptom, it's important for people living with MS to include exercise in their lives. Here's why:
Benefits of Exercise in MS
- Enhances self care & Activities of Daily Living
- Reduces risk of other medical conditions
- Decrease spasticity
- Improve bowel and bladder problem
- Reduced fatigue
- Falls prevention
The Principles of Exercise Prescription
- The principle of specificity - To become better at a particular exercise or skill, one must be performing that particular exercise or skill i.e Improvements in walking come about by walking
- The principle of adaptation - The body will get used to the demands placed on it
- The principle of use/disuse - Use it or loose it
- The principle of overload - In order to adapt to exercise and get a training response, the body must be taxed with greater than normal stresses
- The principle of progression - Gradually work up your program
- The principle of Individual differences - Responses to training and ability to exercise vary person to person
The Components of Fitness
Flexibility: Encourage daily stretching, Maintain range of motion
Strength: You can strengthen most muscle groups sitting in a chair or wheelchair, using gravity, bands and/or weights, exercises in the pool or functional activities like sit to stands
Balance: Balance is made up of several systems: vision, vestibular/inner ear and sensation. Balance exercise like sitting unsupported, walking, stepping up a curb, reaching into a cupboard
Endurance/Cardio: Repetitive, rhythmic pumping of big movement muscles Aerobic Capacity = how much O2 we use to fuel our system.
Coordination: Motor coordination is when the movements of several parts of the body are combined in a manner that is well timed smooth and efficient with respect to the required activity such as throwing and catching ball, walking, opposite arm and leg movement
What are the barriers for people living with MS?
- Muscle spasm
- Physical impairments and decreased functional mobility in general
- Fear of falls and injuries
- Fatigue and poor sleep
- Lack of motivation and low mood
- Lack of confidence to your abilities
- Lack of knowledge about adequate performance
- Lack of social support
- Pick an activity you enjoy
- Set small realistic goals
- Give your program time to become a habit
- Follow an exercise schedule to keep you motivated
- Several short exercise periods are just as good as a long period
- Use empowering thoughts/positive self talk: "Yes I can do it"
- Exercise to stall progression
- Exercise to maintain and improve abilities
- Exercise to prevent falls and complications of immobility
- Exercise to feel great and to exert some control over your disease
If you're living with MS, SEMI's sports therapists in Toronto can create an exercise program to help manage your MS symptoms. Our modern studios are private and safe, allowing you to focus on your fitness goals.
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