Exercise is not just good for your health, it's an important part of MS treatment. Being active gives you more energy and makes you less tired. It helps prevent bladder and bowel problems, and it can boost your mood.
How much exercise do you need? What exercises should you do? When it comes to MS, there's no one-size-fits-all answer. Your symptoms, treatment, and lifestyle will help determine your exercise plan. Get expert advice about what is right for you:
Talk to your doctor. Find out if there’s anything you need to be careful about when you exercise.
Partner with a physical therapist. Find someone who has experience helping people with MS. Depending on your situation, a physical therapist can make changes to your exercises, so they're safer and more effective. What's more, a physical therapist can help with specific things like building strength so you can move around better.
Types of Exercise
Get your heart pumping. Some type of aerobic exercise is important -- it lifts mood and boosts your heart health. Walking, running, and biking are all good options. If you have leg weakness or other problems moving, you could try other things like rowing or water aerobics.
Stretch. It's good for anyone with MS, but especially helpful if you have painful muscle stiffness and spasms. Besides regular stretching, techniques like yoga and tai chi are great ways to build strength and flexibility. They can also help you relax and fight stress.
Strengthen. Under your physical therapist's guidance, use weights or resistance exercises to build up muscles. Strength helps you move around better.
Keep your balance. Feeling unsteady? Choose activities that don't put you at risk of falls, like stationary biking or swimming. You may want to have a grab bar or rail nearby. Work with your physical therapist on stretches and strength training that will improve your balance and coordination.
Take it slow. Start slowly. If all you can manage is a walk around the block -- or across the room -- then do that. Keep doing it. In time, you'll build up your strength and be able to do much more.
Exercise at the same time every day. People who really stick with exercise tend to do it at the same time each day. Morning might be a good time -- many people with MS say they feel best and most energetic in the morning.
Stay cool. Getting overheated during exercise can make symptoms worse. When you're exercising inside on warm days, fans or the AC can help to keep you cool. A chilly gym may be ideal. The pool is another good option. Save outside exercise for cooler days. Always drink plenty of water, and think about using cold packs or cooling vests.
Know when to stop. If you feel pain or sick during exercise, stop. If symptoms start to flare up, adjust or stop your routine. Talk to your doctor. While you're healing, get lots of rest. Once you start feeling better, your physical therapist can help get you back on track.
Find a balance. If you're able to work out hard, great. But make sure that your workouts don't make you too weak. If you're so tired or sore after a workout that you can't make dinner, you need to reassess.
On a good day, it's tempting to push yourself more than normal -- to run an extra mile. But overdoing it today could leave you feeling crummy tomorrow. Instead, stick to your regular pace.