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
| Reply

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.

Leave a Comment

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with the community. Please note comments are moderated.


  • hope2015  Jun 11, 2018 12:43 PM
    As this is the 3rd time and an hour long process trying this and it was freekin good info- now in short: movement matters small actions really do lead to more and more and if you havent really do seek out a PT- they CAN help and WANT to...they can make a stick figure sheet with 10 things you can strive for and practice at home after your sessions run out ask your dr to ask for that- 2yrs later I still use that sheet-but do it and if you stop doing something it WILL stop the progress- I did and I know. I will never not use a cane (3) or rollator (2) but my search for a wheelchair or scooter has been put on a backburner. Eat Well Be Positive Do something every day- every step we take MATTERS...glad i didnt break my keyboard after punching it,lol
  • Gerrin Harris   Jun 21, 2018 10:41 AM
    I really enjoyed this article because someday i dance or do cardio. I try to do something everyday now I mostly do the yes you can DVD of stretchering and see that balance is better. I remember when i first got MS in 2003 my doctor was like don't do so much i loved basketball, but i quit because overheating will cause relapses and i didnt want no more time in the hospital. I want to encourage everybody any movement is great!!!
  • Mariana   Jun 21, 2018 10:49 AM
    Hello! I am looking classes for people with MS, anyone : yoga, swimming, exercises.
    Leaving in Brooklyn, NY
  • S Wilkinson   Jun 21, 2018 11:32 AM
    Looking for classes or exercise therapy leads for people with MS therapist in the Navarre, Florida area... especially for the drop foot problem. Thanks for your help!
  • Olga   Jun 21, 2018 11:46 AM
    Good morning Doctor Cathleen Zackowski,

    Since year of 1974 I am working in health related sevices; started as RN in ex YU worked as an SW as well, then, year of 1995, as dislocated family from war turned county mynfamily and I live at Scottsdale,AZ while since year of 2008 I was privileged to start Scottsdale Academy for Caregivers PLLC.
    Our Summer Away Project is based on opportunity to introduce one particular, Natural Spring Spa and Rehabilitation center in Serbia for USA residents who is affected with MS and another Neurological diseases, hoping that one day will be approved as a Rehabilitation opportunity for USA MS clients.
    Please contact me at:

    for details, since I am traying to find a Sponsors who will support 40 days treatment for at list 3 clients from every State, and evaluating their stay, hopefully will be approved and be available for all in need;since that particular Spring water is well known for slowing and even stagnations of MS symptoms progressions.I was there in 2010 and talked with their long time, like client who made her life possible and visiting for amazingly 50 years,since she realized healing power of their water.
    My phone number is:
    480-252-8218 (please don't live message, since (for some reason) I am not able to listen then.
    My address is:
    8725 E. Starlight Way
    Scottsdale,AZ 85250
    Thanks Doctor Cathleen,I am sincerely looking forward for your expertise and help.
  • Barbara Sanders   Jun 21, 2018 12:30 PM
    I find it difficult to exercise AND try to keep up with my regular household chores. It seems to be one or the other, I don't have the energy to do both. What do you suggest I do?
  • Janet Kinney   Jun 21, 2018 4:50 PM
    I was scared with rrMS 17 years ago. I do have some difficulty walking long distances and fatigue easily. My feet and legs are numb and tingly. However, I try to exercise at least 5 days a week. I have a Pilates power gym that I can adjust the band's depending on how strong I feel. I feel so much better doing this. I notice such a difference when I don't exercise. People with MS need to understand how important movement, stretching, and exercise is. It is an important part of your treatment plan.
  • Laird Jeffers   Jun 21, 2018 6:52 PM
    I've been telling my doctor for over a year that my walking and physical strength is going the wrong direction I've been given no Direction or no ideas on how to change the problem I'm a matter of months away from not being able to walk at all I have decided that I have to make a move on my own and I'm not sure where to start
  • Stacey   Jun 21, 2018 11:03 PM
    Hi I live in Chicago area I take care of 2 people with ms could u plz send me a list of top Drs n the best therapists n types of xercise I enjoy learning from u
  • Barb L. Tullis   Jun 22, 2018 2:48 AM
    Thanks so much Kathleen for helping out with research and rehabilitation approaches for MS. I've had MS for 49 years; lived in 4 different nursing homes with different challenges but am not living happily with my husband in our own house.
    It has been a challenge for me but there are many times more complex issues in a person's life that may seem more stressful.
    With your help and support I will manage.
    Thanks again for all you do. God bless.
  • doreen lubin   Jun 22, 2018 10:04 AM
    I have weverms for over 30 yrs I always exercise I find exercise will potencially halt some flare ups ... however: when you get any kind of infection it might and probably will bring on a flare up balance problems are my worst ...however; spinal problems can cause leg numbness ..back problems exercise is the key to better control for this disease
  • Maureen Hannon   Jun 22, 2018 10:48 AM
    When I was first diagnosed with MS, around 1984, there wasn't much known about the disease. In those days, if you had a bunch of symptoms that they couldn't find a cause, they'd tell you that you probably have MS or that you're a hypochondriac! They would tell you not to exercise, it would take the little energy that you had, so you wouldn't have anything left to function. Obviously, that was WRONG!! I've been exercising regularly exercising regularly for about 25 years. Haven't had a relapse in the last 25 years. It's not just exercising that's kept me ambulatory, also, healthy diet, Betaseron, daily prayer and meditation. If balance is an issue, there's a workout program called "Chairobics", it's aerobic exercise you can do from a chair.
  • Darlene Feigen   Jun 22, 2018 7:41 PM
    I am in Thousand Oaks, CA and there is a local gym that is MS certified to do rehabilitative exercises with MS patients. She is also in contact with one of the number one advocates for the needs of fitness in a person with MS. They have found a new workout that is fun, safe and anyone can do. Below is the information of the workout and some contact.

    One more thing this workout involves bungee cords, don't be intimidated it just sound scary.
  • Clementine Darensbourg   Jun 22, 2018 8:58 PM
    Can someone give me some information about a yoga class or exercise company I'm with Humana and they have a sneaker program but it's hard to find places that take my card please use my email address to let me know
  • Susan Pollock   Jun 23, 2018 9:36 AM
    My initial diagnosis came in January, 1989 when I was living in Oregon where I was actively water skiing, snow skiing, biking, hiking, walking and other activities on a regular basis. Other than when I’ve had complete paralysis on one side or the other, or other visible episodes, no one can really tell that I have MS except those close to me.

    I began doing Jazzercise in 1984 and continue to this day, albeit a more modified version for the past 5 to 6 years. My husband and I found it interesting that two different neurologists at two different times made the same comment to us. They each said ‘if they were looking at my MRIs and didn’t know whose they were, they would have to assume the patient was in a wheelchair. I also have eaten a healthy diet through the years.

    My point is that I firmly believe because I exercised regularly before and since my diagnosis of MS that that is why I am still ambulatory. Nowadays however I am plagued by fatigue and have limited active time.
  • Anna Cook   Jun 23, 2018 10:10 AM
    Yes I'm in a wheelchair and I need help I need to get out of this depression I need exercise I know I do and I need help
  • Anna Cook   Jun 23, 2018 10:13 AM
    Hello looking for exercise in port Orange florida im in a wheelchair please help..
  • Jacqueline Morton-Johnson   Jun 25, 2018 1:42 PM
    Excercise is very important.