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Multiple Sclerosis and Exercise

Exercise can help ease the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, but it's important to take certain precautions if you want your exercise program to be successful. The most important thing to remember is to not overdo it.

You may have heard the sayings "no pain, no gain" or "feel the burn," but those approaches are not helpful for people with MS. If you overdo it, you can end up straining an already taxed muscular system, increasing pain and causing your body and mind to become overstressed, overworked, and overtired.

Check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program. He may make recommendations about:

  • The types of exercise best suited to you and those you should avoid
  • The intensity of the workout (how hard you should work)
  • The length of your workout and any physical limitations
  • Referrals to other professionals, such as a physical therapist, who can help create a personal exercise program that meets your needs. The type of exercise that works best for you depends on your symptoms, fitness level, and overall health.

Tips for Safe Exercise With Multiple Sclerosis

  • Always warm up before beginning your exercise routine and cool down at the end.
  • If you plan to work out for 30 minutes, start with 10-minute workout sessions and work your way up.
  • Work out in a safe place; avoid slippery floors, poor lighting, throw rugs, and other potential tripping hazards.
  • If you have trouble balancing, exercise within reach of a grab-bar or rail.
  • If at any time you feel sick or you begin to hurt, STOP.
  • Select an activity that you enjoy and have fun. Water aerobics, swimming, tai chi, and yoga are examples of exercises that often work well for people with MS.

What Should I Do if I Get Overheated?

Some people with MS are sensitive to heat, which means they notice that their symptoms either reappear or become worse when their body heat rises. This will happen when you exercise. Here are some tips to avoid overheating.

  • Don't exercise during the hot time of the day (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.). Try to exercise in the morning or evening if you are exercising outside.
  • Drink plenty of cool fluids.
  • Become aware of your body. If you notice any symptoms that you didn't have before you began exercising, slow down or stop exercising until you cool down.
  • Swimming and water aerobics are good ways to stay cool while you exercise. Also, make sure that there are non-slip floors in the locker room and around the pool.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on January 17, 2014
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