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How to Exercise With Multiple Sclerosis

written by: Terry Caron • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 7/5/2011

Multiple Sclerosis is a debilitating disease that affects a persons nervous system and musculature. People with Multiple Sclerosis often suffer from loss of coordination, strength and many other debilitating symptoms. Multiple Sclerosis exercise regimens can help with these symptoms.

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    Exercise is great for staying healthy, in shape, building strength and muscle mass as well as developing a strong immune system. It can also be very beneficial for those with Multiple Sclerosis. With a few modifications to a Multiple Sclerosis exercise routine, people with MS can also enjoy some of the benefits of exercise like improved coordination, improved strength and better overall health. Here are some tips for setting up your exercise regimen and pointers for an enjoyable workout.

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    Taking it Easy

    This may sound contradictory for an exercise regimen but if you have Multiple Sclerosis then you probably know that it can be detrimental to push yourself too hard. Hard, strenuous exercise can cause a flare up of symptoms and in some cases a relapse for MS patients so the key is to work out in pace and not to push. Stick to lighter aerobic exercises and lighter strength training. Walking outside or at an easy pace on a treadmill is excellent MS exercise. It provides benefits for the heart and cardiovascular system without the inherit risks of overdoing it. Light strengthening exercises will low weight or exercise bands is a great way to help improve strength. A key to exercising with Multiple Sclerosis is to keep the body in motion but not to worry about the old saying “no pain no gain”. Leave that for the gym rats.

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    Making Sure Your Exercise Area is Safe

    If you have Multiple Sclerosis then you are probably aware of the reduced coordination that comes with it. This can make it easier for you to slip and fall when exercising. Make sure your workout area is free from small objects that could cause a fall or an injury if you fall on them. An exercise mat is an excellent addition to your workout area. Gentle stretches, yoga, and light weight strength training can easily be done on an exercise mat. Sitting on an inflatable exercise ball, ore better yet, an oval exercise ball (sometimes referred to as a “peanut”) and performing some light curls and military presses will help improve strength and balance at the same time. Focus your strengthening exercises to the basics with some additional exercises for the core. It is also a good idea to have a stool, chair or other object like a railing close so that you can grab it if you lose your balance.

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    Keeping Cool

    Many patients with MS know that overheating can happen more easily with MS than it does for others. Staying cool during a workout is important and also another reason not to push too hard during a workout. Some methods for keeping cool during exercise include; drinking plenty of water during your workout and throughout the day. Water helps the body to regulate its temperature along with many other benefits. Swimming and water aerobics are a great way to stay cool while exercising and are a lot of fun. Simply wading in a pool and walking in a pool are great exercises along with others that will help you stay fit and cool at the same time. If you enjoy walking outside, try to walk in the morning or later afternoon. This will help your MS exercise routine stay cool and out of the noon day heat.

    Exercise is great for anyone and those with Multiple Sclerosis can also benefit from better coordination, improved strength and a reduction in some of the symptoms from Multiple Sclerosis. Be sure to check with your doctor before beginning any MS exercise routine and check out the MS Societies website for other ideas. Most importantly, have fun!