Multiple Sclerosis Ms Lifestyle Exercise

The best way to introduce exercise into your lifestyle is to set small, reasonable goals. For the person with multiple sclerosis, this could mean taking a short walk around the block or sitting in a chair and stretching different parts of the body. How much or how little exercise you do is dependent on the symptoms of your disease and you. Movement is important, but overdoing it can lead to unnecessary stress.

The Benefits of Good Fitness

If you have never exercised you may not know all of the great secrets about it. If chronic fatigue is a problem then exercise is the cure. Regular and routine exercise boosts heart health, pumping blood more effectively and improving overall strength. All these factors reduce fatigue and the risks of cardiovascular illness.

The most substantial benefit of exercise is the positive effect it has on the brain. Exercise stimulates the brain to release chemicals that create positive feelings and prevent depression. Cardiovascular exercise that increases the heart rate for several minutes can also trigger the release of endorphins and provide the body with a natural high. Some aerobic exercise every day can offer the same benefits as some antidepressant medications-without the side effects.

Multiple Sclerosis

For the multiple sclerosis patient, fitness, including stretching and flexibility, helps to maintain balance and reduce symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis. Exercise promotes better digestion, which leads to better bowel function. Improved strength leads to stronger muscles that help to protect bones from unnecessary breaks. Stronger muscles in the bladder can also decrease urinary incontinence.

Finding the Right Multiple Sclerosis Exercise Program

Set up an exercise program that fits your lifestyle and symptoms. Your doctor can make suggestions or recommend that you see a physical therapist. A physical therapist can design a fitness program especially for you. The fitness program can be designed with different function levels to accommodate the limitations of your multiple sclerosis symptoms as they flare up or go into remission.

Before You Exercise

A warm-up period should be incorporated into your exercise routine. This initial warm-up alerts the nerve pathways to forthcoming movement. This can help reduce numbness, tingling or blurred vision that sometimes accompanies exercise. These symptoms should not be a deterrent to exercise but can be controlled by pacing exercise, monitoring heart rate and respiratory rate, and timing multiple sclerosis medications to comply with exercise routines. Most symptoms will diminish within a half hour after the fitness session.

Regulating Core Temperature

Some important considerations should be made when exercising with multiple sclerosis. As with any exercise program, you should drink fluids like water or juice. Fluids help keep the core body temperature down and are important for proper circulation. Many multiple sclerosis patients experience symptom flare-ups when their core temperature is elevated either with heat, humidity or fever. Adequate fluids are an important part of maintaining a regular core temperature.

Swimming or other aquatic exercises are an ideal form of exercise for those who suffer from multiple sclerosis. Pool temperatures of 80 to 84 °F keep the body’s core temperature cool. Water reduces the effects of gravity, which provides a greater range of motion for the body, yet it offers the resistance that helps strengthen muscles.

Just Keep Moving

Stretching and flexibility routines like yoga and tai chi provide a full range of motion for muscles and concentration on healthy breathing and attitude. The benefits of day-to-day activities are also part of exercise. Gardening and housework are good examples of methods of moving the muscles toward good fitness. Remember to make a goal that you can keep, but keep your body moving.


Gibson, B.E. (2004, July). Stretching for people with MS. National Multiple Sclerosis Society manual.

Harmon, M. (2003). Exercise as part of everyday life. National Multiple Sclerosis Society brochure.