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More MS news articles for December 2003

Water aerobics aids MS sufferers

Nov. 28, 2003
Brian Bethel
Abilene Reporter-News

Lesa Lerma, Carol Hamner and Marci McDonald tie their swim noodles into pretzel shapes, then wrap them around their feet.

Holding on to the side of the State Street YMCA's swimming pool, they use the resistance of the water and the buoyancy of their flotation devices to work on their leg muscles.

The three women all have multiple sclerosis, a disease that affects the central nervous system. Regular water aerobics allows them greater freedom of movement, something that is difficult for those with MS.

Dizziness, vertigo, pain and fatigue are some of the most-common symptoms of the disease.

"The water really does give many of them a range of motion that they wouldn't normally have," said instructor Laura Huddleston, who teaches the free class twice a week. "The physical benefits of the exercise help keep their symptoms under control."

Each of the women was diagnosed with MS within the past few years. In some cases, it took several tests and much frustration to get a diagnosis.

Carol Hamner became uncomfortably numb on her right side two years ago, and it was only after visits with a neurologist and MRIs that she found out why.

Lerma just attended her second class.

"My legs have been progressively getting weaker, and I'm hoping that the exercise will help me," she said. "Listening to everyone talk about how much it has helped them, I'm very happy that they are offering this."

Kathy Greiner, aquatic coordinator at the State Street YMCA, said the group had been talking to the North Texas Multiple Sclerosis Society about offering water aerobics for about a year.

Cindy Garlock, program director of the North Texas MS Society, said that both her group and the YMCA have been trying to find someone to donate a $3,500 wheelchair lift to allow those with even more limited ranges of motion access to the water.

"I know that this type of exercise has made a real difference in how I feel and what I'm able to do," McDonald said. "I would encourage everyone with MS to give it a try."

Copyright © 2003, Abilene Reporter-News