Exercising and Moving With MS

So much can change in the body following a multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis. The toll MS takes on moving the body is significant. A forum on MultipleSclerois.net asked members for their insights to several questions:

  • How has MS impacted exercise or bodily movement for you?
  • Are there exercises or movements that seem to work really well for you and, alternatively, some movements that are difficult to do now?
  • Have you had to modify any movements? If so, how?
  • How do you set yourself up for success when moving your body?

There were many valuable responses!

Balance

One primary source of struggle is balance. MS makes it difficult to walk without support. Finding ways to exercise with compromised balance is tricky.

“All movements have changed since diagnosed in 2018 (PPMS). Stiffness is huge for me; I walk like I’ve wooden legs. Balance is worse. …It’s like a piece of the floor suddenly disappeared.”

“My MS has affected my ability to stand and especially do cardio, so I really enjoy pilates since it’s mostly done laying down, and you do the movements at your own pace.”

“I’ve been practicing yoga since my diagnosis in 2003. I do beginning yoga, but sometimes try intermediate yoga and practice the balancing exercises. It makes me feel great, like my brain and legs are connected, rather than the usual, where I feel like each appendage acts on its own.”

Chair exercises

Seated position exercises are popular in the community! The stability of sitting makes stretching and core strengthening exercises easier. Many respondents shared how transformative chair exercises are for their bodies.

“I do ‘sit fit’ at my local senior citizen center.”

“I love ‘sit n fit!’ I always feel much better afterward! There are also classes on YouTube, some as short as 15 minutes, which is great if I am having an exhausted day!”

“I discovered chair yoga and loved it so much that I am now 1 of 2 instructors in town! One can do a lot of stretching, core building, balance, and breathing in a chair yoga class.”

“Chair yoga was my gateway to becoming more active. It has improved my flexibility and balance; it took 18 months. I gained so much more confidence in my body.”

Rowing

Another popular exercise technique is rowing. Also done from a seated position, rowing helps strengthen and tone muscles. It also provides a cardio workout.  Each person can go at their own pace.

“I also look forward to rowing again; it works on your entire body, and you can go as slow or fast as you like. …next to swimming, it is my favorite exercise. I love a good row to get out all the kinks!”

“I now have an area in my basement for working out. Rower, resistance bands, and dumbbells. I use the rower about 3 to 4 times a week, followed by weights. Two days are full-body strength training. …I am losing weight, gaining muscle, improving my balance, and have a whole new appreciation for my body and its capabilities!”

“ROWING MACHINE! I find it absolutely brilliant to use – I love the way it enables me to get a good 15 minutes of intense exercise at the beginning of my workout, and it’s almost impossible to use it WRONG.”

Cardio and weights

In addition to rowing, there are other approaches to cardio! Many respondents use a treadmill, an elliptical, or a stationary bike. Keeping the muscles active helps with balance. Exercise improves mental health.

“I use a treadmill. I can hang onto it and walk for 30 to 50 minutes. I push the incline up to 7 to get my heart rate up. I end up doing about 1.5 to 2 miles. …The walking helps me feel stronger and helps with my sleep.”

“Riding my stationary bike seems to help with my muscles and keeps me positive.”

“What also has motivated me is setting my Fitbit to record my steps. It reminds me to step for the day, cheers me when I’ve exceeded my goal, and sends me my report for the week.”

“I have an elliptical (I find this better for me than a treadmill as I have something to hold onto) and a universal gym/hand weights. I don’t go hard like I used to, but I make sure to do a set of something every day and a few minutes on the elliptical when I’m up to it.”

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