Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a complex neurological condition that affects millions of people worldwide. While it can pose significant challenges, there is growing recognition of the transformative impact that exercise, in conjunction with exercise physiology expertise, can have on managing and improving the lives of individuals living with MS. In this article, we will explore the importance of exercise for MS and the invaluable role that exercise physiologists play in tailoring exercise programs to meet the unique needs and goals of MS patients.
Understanding Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple Sclerosis is an inflammatory autoimmune and demyelinating disease that primarily affects the central nervous system, causing a wide range of symptoms such as muscle weakness, fatigue, numbness, and impaired coordination (Kuhlmann & Antel, 2023). It can be unpredictable and varies in severity among individuals. Managing MS involves a multifaceted approach, including medication, physical therapy, and lifestyle modifications. One of the most promising and empowering additions to this approach is regular exercise.
The Importance of Exercise for MS
Fatigue Management: Fatigue is a common and debilitating symptom of MS. Exercise, when appropriately tailored, can help reduce mental and physical fatigue and boost energy levels. It may seem counterintuitive, but regular physical activity has shown to increase overall energy and stamina (Torres-Costoso et al., 2022).
Improved muscle strength, mobility, and function: MS often leads to muscle weakness and loss of coordination. Engaging in a structured exercise regimen can counteract these effects by strengthening muscles and improving balance and coordination (Halabchi, Alizadeh, Sahraian, & Abolhasani, 2017). This, in turn, enhances mobility and the ability to perform daily activities. Study results demonstrate that all individuals with MS, despite disability levels, show improvement in muscle strength and endurance (Filipi, Kucera, Filipi, Ridpath, & Leuschen, 2011; Kierkegaard et al., 2016; Reina-Gutiérrez et al., 2023).
Neuroprotection and anti-inflammatory effects: This study (Mulero et al., 2023) examined the effects of a short-term resistance training program on neurofilament plasma levels, a biomarker of axonal destruction. A 6-week supervised resistance-training program of 18 sessions that consisted of 3 sets of 8-10 repetitions of 7 exercises showed that plasma neurofilament levels significantly decreased from baseline and interestingly this was maintained after 4 weeks of detraining. These results suggest a neuroprotective effect from resistance training on patients living with multiple sclerosis (Mulero et al., 2023). This study completed on patients living with relapsing–remitting multiple sclerosis performed high-intensity resistance training at an intensity of 80% of one-repetition maximum, twice a week for 12 weeks. Improvements were seen in inflammation levels as well as mood, fatigue, muscle strength, walking speed and cognition (Kierkegaard et al., 2016).
Improved Cognition and Mental Well-being: Exercise has well-documented mental health benefits and has shown superior results on improving mental health symptoms than medication or counselling (Singh et al., 2023), and this holds true for individuals living with MS. Exercise can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, providing a significant emotional boost and improving overall quality of life (Flores et al., 2023; Kierkegaard et al., 2016). Exercise has also shown to improve cognitive function and memory in patients living with multiple sclerosis (Li et al., 2023).
Enhanced Cardiovascular Health: MS patients often have an increased risk of cardiovascular problems due to reduced mobility. Studies highlight that engaging in aerobic and resistance exercise can enhance cardiovascular health and reduce this risk cardiovascular disease (Halabchi et al., 2017; Reina-Gutiérrez et al., 2023; Wens et al., 2015).
Pain Management: Many individuals with MS experience pain, which can be exacerbated by muscle stiffness and spasticity. Properly designed exercise programs can help alleviate these symptoms and reduce pain (Halabchi et al., 2017).
The Role of Exercise Physiologists in NDIS
Exercise physiologists are trained professionals who specialize in designing and implementing exercise programs tailored to an individual’s specific needs, abilities, and medical conditions. When it comes to MS and other NDIS related disabilities, their expertise is invaluable for the following reasons:
Personalized Exercise Programs for Multiple Sclerosis: Exercise physiologists assess an individual’s physical condition, functional limitations, and goals. They then create a customized exercise plan that considers the unique challenges presented by MS.
Education and Expertise: An exercise physiologist often completes 4+ years of university. An exercise physiologist also completes practical experience during their degree. They are equipped with the skills, knowledge, and experience to deliver tailored, safe & effective exercise to those living with disabilities.
Safety First: Safety is paramount for individuals with MS, as certain exercises can exacerbate symptoms or lead to injury if not properly supervised. Exercise physiologists ensure that exercises are performed safely and monitor the patient’s progress overtime.
Adaptability: MS is a dynamic condition, and its symptoms can change over time. Exercise physiologists can adapt exercise programs as needed to accommodate these fluctuations, ensuring ongoing benefits.
Motivation and Support: Staying motivated to exercise regularly can be challenging, especially for those with chronic conditions. Exercise physiologists provide motivation, guidance, and support, helping individuals stay committed to their exercise routines.
Incorporating exercise and the expertise of an exercise physiologist into the management of multiple sclerosis is a powerful combination. It can significantly improve physical function, reduce symptoms, enhance mental well-being, and ultimately empower individuals living with MS to lead fuller, more active lives.
If you or someone you know has MS, consider consulting with our exercise physiologist to create a tailored exercise plan that can make a profound difference in managing the condition and achieving a higher quality of life. With the right guidance and commitment, exercise can be a cornerstone of a comprehensive approach to living well with multiple sclerosis.
An exercise physiologist has the education, skills and experience to improve the life of individuals living with an NDIS related diagnosis.
Speak to an accredited exercise physiologist today to learn how they can assist an individual living with an NDIS disability.
Filipi, M. L., Kucera, D. L., Filipi, E. O., Ridpath, A. C., & Leuschen, M. P. (2011). Improvement in strength following resistance training in MS patients despite varied disability levels. NeuroRehabilitation, 28(4), 373-382. doi:10.3233/nre-2011-0666
Flores, V. A., Šilić, P., DuBose, N. G., Zheng, P., Jeng, B., & Motl, R. W. (2023). Effects of aerobic, resistance, and combined exercise training on health-related quality of life in multiple sclerosis: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Mult Scler Relat Disord, 75, 104746. doi:10.1016/j.msard.2023.104746
Halabchi, F., Alizadeh, Z., Sahraian, M. A., & Abolhasani, M. (2017). Exercise prescription for patients with multiple sclerosis; potential benefits and practical recommendations. BMC Neurol, 17(1), 185. doi:10.1186/s12883-017-0960-9
Kierkegaard, M., Lundberg, I. E., Olsson, T., Johansson, S., Ygberg, S., Opava, C., . . . Piehl, F. (2016). High-intensity resistance training in multiple sclerosis — An exploratory study of effects on immune markers in blood and cerebrospinal fluid, and on mood, fatigue, health-related quality of life, muscle strength, walking and cognition. Journal of the Neurological Sciences, 362, 251-257. doi:10.1016/j.jns.2016.01.063
Kuhlmann, T., & Antel, J. (2023). Multiple sclerosis: 2023 update. Free Neuropathol, 4. doi:10.17879/freeneuropathology-2023-4675
Li, G., You, Q., Hou, X., Zhang, S., Du, L., Lv, Y., & Yu, L. (2023). The effect of exercise on cognitive function in people with multiple sclerosis: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Neurol, 270(6), 2908-2923. doi:10.1007/s00415-023-11649-7
Mulero, P., Maroto-Izquierdo, S., Redondo, N., Gonzalo-Benito, H., Chavarría-Miranda, A., Calvo, H., . . . Tellez, N. (2023). Effect of resistance exercise training on plasma neurofilaments in multiple sclerosis: a proof of concept for future designs. Neurol Sci. doi:10.1007/s10072-023-06896-5
Reina-Gutiérrez, S., Meseguer-Henarejos, A. B., Torres-Costoso, A., Álvarez-Bueno, C., Cavero-Redondo, I., Núñez de Arenas-Arroyo, S., . . . Martínez-Vizcaíno, V. (2023). Effect of different types of exercise on fitness in people with multiple sclerosis: A network meta-analysis. Scand J Med Sci Sports. doi:10.1111/sms.14407
Singh, B., Olds, T., Curtis, R., Dumuid, D., Virgara, R., Watson, A., . . . Maher, C. (2023). Effectiveness of physical activity interventions for improving depression, anxiety and distress: an overview of systematic reviews. British Journal of Sports Medicine, bjsports-2022-106195. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2022-106195
Torres-Costoso, A., Martínez-Vizcaíno, V., Reina-Gutiérrez, S., Álvarez-Bueno, C., Guzmán-Pavón, M. J., Pozuelo-Carrascosa, D. P., . . . Cavero-Redondo, I. (2022). Effect of Exercise on Fatigue in Multiple Sclerosis: A Network Meta-analysis Comparing Different Types of Exercise. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 103(5), 970-987.e918. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apmr.2021.08.008
Wens, I., Dalgas, U., Vandenabeele, F., Grevendonk, L., Verboven, K., Hansen, D., & Eijnde, B. O. (2015). High Intensity Exercise in Multiple Sclerosis: Effects on Muscle Contractile Characteristics and Exercise Capacity, a Randomised Controlled Trial. PLoS One, 10(9), e0133697. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0133697
Written by Accredited Exercise Physiologist – Christopher Kondos
Christopher Kondos is an ESSA Accredited Exercise Physiologist with 6+ years of experience in the health and fitness industry. Christopher has completed a Sports & Exercise Science Degree and a Masters degree in Exercise Physiology.
– Master of Clinical Exercise Physiology at Charles Sturt University, Bathurst -2022 (Received an Executive Dean’s Award for these studies)
– Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science at Australian Catholic University, Strathfield – 2019
-Student Exercise Physiologist at Nepean Hospital (Cardiac Rehabilitation) 2021
– Approved SIRA Provider (No. 20963)
– ASCA Strength and Conditioning Level 1 accreditation – 2018