Living With MS: Exercise Tips

Exercise isn't just good for your overall health, it's an important part of multiple sclerosis (MS) treatment. Being active gives you more energy and makes you less tired. It can boost your mood and help prevent bladder and bowel problems.

Get Fitness Advice

How much exercise do you need, and what kind 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's 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 change your exercises to make them 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. 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 it's especially helpful if you have painful muscle stiffness and spasms. Besides regular stretching, activities 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 make it likely for you to fall, 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.

Exercise Tips

Take it slow. Ease into your exercise routine. If all you can manage is a walk around the block -- or across the room -- that's fine. Start with that and keep it up. 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 their fitness routine tend to do it at the same time each day. Morning might be a good time, since many people with MS say they feel best and most energetic at that time.

Stay cool. Getting overheated during exercise can make symptoms worse. When you're working out inside on warm days, fans or the AC can help 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 quit. If you feel pain or sickness during exercise, stop. If symptoms start to flare up, change or end 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 can do vigorous exercise, that's OK, 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 prepare 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.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on May 05, 2019


Cleveland Clinic: "Exercise & Multiple Sclerosis."

Rosalind Kalb, PhD, clinical psychologist; vice president, clinical care, National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Multiple Sclerosis Society: "Exercise."

Cindy Richman, senior director of patient and healthcare relations, Multiple Sclerosis Association of America.

University of California, San Francisco: "Living with Multiple Sclerosis."

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