One of the keys to maintaining mobility and fighting fatigue when you have multiple sclerosis (MS) is to stay active. "For years, doctors told people with MS not to exercise," according to Meg Frazer, MD, Senior Director within the Cardiovascular and Metabolic team at Pfizer. "But we know that for someone with MS, exercise can be very important." Of course, that doesn't mean that people with MS should be training for triathlons. Instead, Frazer suggests focusing on activities that help improve balance, muscle tone and endurance. Before beginning a new exercise routine you should speak with your health care team and work together to design the right plan for you.
1. To improve balance: Balance problems are common symptoms of MS. "There also aren't any medications that improve balance in MS so the only thing you can really do is to work the balance centers in your brain," says Dr. Frazer.
- Try sitting on a balance ball*: There are plenty of low-impact exercises you can do with a large balance ball, but just sitting on one is great for balance. "When you sit on the ball, your body makes small changes in the spine and hips," according to Dr. Frazer. "Those adjustments can help improve your balance."
2. To improve muscle tone: MS causes the muscle to become tight. "If you're walking down the street and your muscles are too tight, you're going to become tired more easily," explains Dr. Frazer. Tightness can also decrease your range of motion and affect your balance, making it painful and potentially difficult to walk.
- Try tai chi or yoga*: Activities that involve stretching, such as tai chi and yoga, can help improve muscle tone. These activities are also great for improving balance at the same time.
3. To improve endurance: Building aerobic endurance can help people with MS fight some of the fatigue associated with the condition. Aerobic exercise that includes some light resistance training can also help improve muscle tone.
- Try swimming or other water activities*: This low-impact activity is great for the heart and lungs, yet gentle on joints. “It’s also a great form of exercise for people with limited balance,” says Dr. Frazer
*Before beginning any exercise routine you should speak with your health care team and work together to design the right plan for you.
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