MS & Movement

One of the things I love about attending the Annual Meeting of the Consortium of MS Centers is how many studies focus on pinpointing problems in the daily lives of people with MS and how to find solutions. This is the point of rehabilitation–to restore or maintain function as much as possible.
One problem that is being investigated is sedentary behavior, also called “sitting time.” Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and colleagues around the country administered a physical activity questionnaire to more than 6,000 people with MS.

The survey included a question on how many minutes people spend sitting each day. Median sitting time for this group was 480 minutes per day–twice as high as the general population. They found that males who are unmarried or underweight tended to sit longer than others.
Why is this important? Movement is essential to our overall health. Evidence is growing on the benefits of physical activity and exercise for MS and can help in avoiding other conditions that can happen with MS, like heart problems.

I was struck by one presentation that showed the potential of exercise, particularly in the youngest who get MS. Researchers from the University of Ottawa and colleagues in the U.S. and Canada asked kids ages 10-18 with MS about their levels of physical activity and measured the thickness of the nerve fiber layer in the retina at the back of the eye (thinning of the nerve fiber layer suggests tissue damage). They found that moderate to vigorous levels of activity in these kids were linked with greater thickness of the nerve fiber. This is an interesting finding, but it’s possible that kids who have already experienced tissue damage tend not to exercise. The next step would be to conduct a trial to see if exercise can increase visual integrity in kids with MS. If confirmed, this could provide exciting evidence on how rehabilitation can truly restore function, in addition to improving symptoms!

Sometimes people with MS who consult with me are daunted by the challenge of taking on more physical activity, especially if they have severe mobility impairments. I get it. It almost feels like an insult to ask someone to “get moving” if they have trouble walking. But please keep in mind that physical activity options are available to people throughout the spectrum of the MS experience, even those who use wheelchairs. One poster that showed this beautifully was presented by Daryl Kucera, who runs the MSForward Gym in Omaha, Nebraska. He targets exercise programs to people of all abilities. The gym also reaches people in six states with a unique “telehealth” (video conferencing) fitness program. Daryl lives with MS–and he’s committed to helping people with the disease live their best lives.
Check out these exercise options for people with all kinds of mobility impairments. The National MS Society also provides a guide for healthcare providers on the benefits of exercise. A diagnosis of MS doesn’t mean you have to stop participating in recreational activities that you enjoy. It’s important to get moving–any way you can.
Tags Healthcare, Healthy Living, Research, Symptoms, Treatment      7 Appreciate this

Kathleen Zackowski

Dr. Kathleen Zackowski has conducted research on rehabilitation approaches for MS and other disorders for more than 15 years. She just joined the Society’s research team as senior director of patient management, care and rehabilitation research after working as a clinician and researcher at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She is working to grow the Society’s research focused on clinical care and rehabilitation, and wellness strategies.