There are multiple reasons why people with MS struggle with balance and coordination, limiting the capacity to remain steady on their feet. This unsteadiness can lead to increased numbers of falls and resulting injury. Additionally, poor eyesight caused by symptoms such as Optic Neuritis or fatigue, side effects of medications and spasticity can also lead to people with MS being less active. Being immunocompromised through the treatment with DMTs, often individuals with MS also take longer to repair if wounded. Never the less, engaging in an exercise programme that is suited to your ability is incredibly important to limit muscle wasting, improve balance and coordination and increase mental health.
One of the challenges in starting an exercise programme for anyone with MS is often overcoming fatigue and pain, and working with muscles that may be deconditioned. Trust me – I know how hard it can be to force yourself to exercise in these circumstances. However, it has been demonstrated in multiple studies that overcoming these barriers and engaging in the minimum level of recommended exercise (around 30 minutes a day) of a suitable nature (as recommended by your care team/physician) can re-condition muscles, reduce pain and spasticity and improve outcomes (such as reduction of disability).
I am not an expert in this, but I have myself engaged in trying to take at least 30 minutes of exercise each day and have done so for the past two years. Since this time, I have seen a remarkable improvement in my stability and balance, and reduction in pain in my lower back and legs. Strangely, (although in line with research) I have also noticed a reduction in overall fatigue levels – NOTE: it did take quite a few months to see this happen (at first fatigue was increased and it took a while to get the balance of too little/too much exercise right for me)
I recognise that MS is an incredibly diverse condition – I myself am variable from one day to the next. This means that we need access to a breadth of exercise programmes in order to maintain muscle condition and cardiovascular and respiratory fitness. As we enter the new year and a large number of us are concerned with our health and fitness after the Christmas period, I have decided to write a series of blogs sharing a few of my top ten exercises for a range of abilities and tastes.