I try to exercise every day. I think this is important for pretty much everyone – it helps to keep my muscles strong, but also gets my mind off things and relaxes me.
Prior to my MS diagnosis, I didn’t follow any specific exercise regime. I occasionally went to the gym or ran outside. Ironically, being diagnosed with MS made me take a long hard look at my physical fitness and made me want to take control and get stronger. Exercise empowered me. It became my passion and spawned my mantra, ‘I have MS, but it doesn’t have me!’ Now 8 years after my diagnosis, I’m still practicing Pilates, still doing water aerobics, and have now introduced cycling and hiking into my routine. I know my limitations, I listen to my body, I live life, and I have fun.
Each time I exercise, I feel like it’s really helping me with my MS! When I hit the gym and I reach a new personal record, it feels like I’m taking back control and winning the fight for another day.
Defy MS and be more active…
With MS, exercising can be one of the last things you want to do. You might even think exercising will make your MS worse. The truth is that physical activity and aerobic exercise are proven to help improve MS symptoms, including muscle spasms, muscle weakness, fatigue, balance, and general well-being.
How did exercising help Mike’s symptoms?
Mike was in the gym when he noticed he had no control over the right side of his body. He later found out that he had MS and this was his first relapse.
When I had my first relapse, I did not know that it was MS. So, I tried to continue exercising with no control over the right half of my body – it’s quite funny, looking back!
It takes hard work to get good results – especially if you’ve just had a relapse – but remember not to give up and that all the hard work is worth it!
Physical therapy includes exercise, rehabilitation, and physiotherapy. These are all important parts of managing your MS. It can be tailored to your individual needs, whether you are newly diagnosed, have just had a relapse, or have been living with MS for some time.
Physical therapy can include exercise programs and training to help improve your balance and mobility. It can also help you find better ways to perform everyday tasks.
Physical therapy might include:
I discovered Pilates about a year into my diagnosis and it changed everything for me. I worked one-on-one with a physiotherapist, who was also a trained Pilates instructor. The new me began to emerge and I was so proud of what I was accomplishing. I didn’t worry about the things I couldn’t do because of my illness, instead we focused on all of the things I could do.
Before you start physical therapy, talk to your healthcare team to ensure the exercises and advice are tailored to suit your specific needs.
As well as physical therapy, there are lots of other rehabilitation strategies, like speech therapy and occupational therapy, to help you feel and function at your best.
You can learn more about rehabilitation at these websites:
If you are experiencing issues with movement or balance, speak to your healthcare team about your MS recovery. Together, you can create a personalized recovery plan to help you move forward in the right direction.
Before you start exercising or increasing your levels of activity, talk to your healthcare team to ensure your exercise program is right for you. They will advise you on the types of exercises most suited to you based on your lifestyle, goals, and symptoms.
Remember these tips for safe and effective exercise:
Although exercise is safe and encouraged for most people with MS, in some cases, an increase in body temperature may trigger a temporary worsening of symptoms. This is just something to be aware of, and it certainly shouldn’t stop you from getting fit and active. Below are some tips on how to keep cool when exercising with MS:
I struggle with heat and feel too hot nearly all the time. This means I’m often found in shorts, even in winter! On a practical level, I find that cold showers can help as well as chilled drinks.
I find it’s better to wear layers of clothes so that you can add or remove layers if you are too hot or cold. In summer, I find this especially important.
We caught up with Mike to find out about his experiences with exercise and how it helped him to take more control of his life.
A healthy lifestyle is important, especially with MS. Find out if you can improve yours here.
MS doesn’t have to stop you doing what you love. In these articles you’ll find information on how to continue living your way.