Many different types of exercise have been found to help people with MS. The most important thing is not which specific exercises you choose, but finding an exercise program that works for you so you can stick with it.
The first step in starting your exercise program is to consult your doctor. Your doctor and physical therapist can recommend a program for you that will fit with your fitness level, your needs, and your abilities.
Most exercise programs have three basic parts: endurance activities, flexibility activities, and strength activities.
- Endurance activities, such as walking, propelling a wheelchair (wheeling), and swimming, help give you more energy and increase your ability to exert yourself. They are helpful in fighting MS fatigue.
- Flexibility activities, such as stretching, yoga, and tai chi, help you maintain your range of motion and mobility. For people with MS, they help prevent muscle spasticity from causing permanent shortening of the muscles.
- Strength activities, such as weight training, push-ups, abdominal curls, and stair climbing, help increase the strength of your muscles and bones. They also reduce fatigue and improve mobility for people with MS.
Exercises that you can do in the water, such as stretching, swimming, or aquafit classes, are particularly helpful for people with MS. Overheating can make symptoms worse, and exercising in the water can help you stay cool. The buoyancy of the water can support your movements so that it is easier to balance. As well, water can be used for resistance exercises to increase muscle strength.
Your doctor and physical therapist can recommend activities from each of these three areas to give you a well-rounded workout. Most exercises can be modified to fit different levels of ability. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about how often you should be exercising, and for how long. Keep in mind that you may need to try a few different exercises before you find ones that work best for you.
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