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Yoga Fights Fatigue in People With MS

Yoga Practice May Ease Fatigue Caused by Multiple Sclerosis
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June 11, 2004 -- Yoga may be just as good as more conventional forms of exercise in reducing fatigue caused by multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a new study.

Researchers found six months of weekly yoga classes together with home practice significantly reduced general fatigue as well as improved vitality in people with MS.

Fatigue is one of the most common and potentially disabling symptoms of the disease, which affects about one in 1,000 people. The cause of MS-related fatigue is unknown, and there are no FDA-approved treatments for it.

Researchers say this is the first randomized, controlled trial of yoga in people with MS and shows that the mind-body exercise is as effective as traditional aerobic exercise in improving MS-related fatigue.

Yoga Fights MS Fatigue

The study involved 69 people with MS who were divided into three groups: one taking weekly Iyengar yoga classes along with home practice, another taking a weekly aerobics class using a stationary bicycle and home exercise, and a third group with no exercise that served as a comparison group.

Of the active or hatha yoga techniques, researchers say Iyengar yoga is the most common practiced in the U.S. The technique uses a series of stationary positions that employ isometric contraction and relaxation of different muscle groups. Participants also perform breathing exercises to promote concentration and relaxation.

The study showed that MS patients in both exercise groups experienced significant improvements in two different measures of fatigue (vitality and general fatigue) compared with the control group.

But neither exercise group produced improvements in attention or alertness.

The results of the study appear in the journal Neurology.

Researchers say the study shows that regardless of the workout method, exercise seems to help MS patients reduce fatigue symptoms.

"This is true whether the regular exercise is yoga, swimming, using a stationary bicycle, or any other physical activity," says Dennis Bourdette, MD, professor of neurology at the Oregon Health & Sciences University, in a news release. "Sometimes the effects are quite dramatic and other times less so. But everyone with MS who exercises regularly reports benefit."

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