1st Jan 2003
Karen J Zielinski
Real Living with Multiple Sclerosis
My MS is the relapsing-remitting type. I used to be a runner, but gave it up because I couldn't keep up my pre-MS routine of running three times a week. When I was first diagnosed in 1989, 1 tried walking as an alternative exercise. Unfortunately, I often felt quite weak, especially because our weather in the Baltimore, Md., area is usually very humid. When I walked, I felt overheated and wasn't physically able to handle much else that day.
Generally, I feel pretty good. I wonder if most people with MS still keep up an exercise regimen. I've gained some weight since I stopped walking and want to get back to some exercise. I feel better when I exercise. What do you think?
Dear D. H.,
Your letter touches one of my strong beliefs-- people with MS need to exercise to maintain their overall health. Recently, there have been numerous credible studies showing that exercise is beneficial and important for everyone, not just people with MS. People who exercise are also less likely to have heart disease. A large study recently examined people with MS and found that those who exercised had lower amounts of body fat, a definite benefit of an exercise program.
Sometimes, exercise may cause a change in symptoms, especially if a person gets overheated. Many of my friends who have MS continue to exercise. To prevent flare-ups, they pay attention to how they feel when they exercise and use common sense if their symptoms start up.
A fantastic type of exercise is swimming or exercising in a pool. Swimming and water exercise are highly endorsed for individuals -with MS.
When individuals with MS want to start a new drug therapy or exercise program, I always tell them the same thing: "Check with your physician first." It's critical to ask your physician if exercise is right for you. He or she can help you decide what type of program is best. Of course, if your physician gives you a referral for physical therapy, that's a great place to start. A physical therapist can evaluate your symptoms and design a program that's tailored to your needs.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society has chapters in every state. Many chapters offer water aerobics programs and have physical therapists that speak at their Gateway to Wellness programs. Some chapters offer booklets on exercise that is specifically designed for people with MS. You can call 1-800 FIGHT-MS to find out about a chapter near you.
I encourage you to go back to exercising. I've been faithful to three half-hour sessions a week. It takes a lot of discipline for me to go to my exercise machine, but I know I have to maintain my level of muscle strength. Once I start with the weights, I forget about the struggle to keep up an exercise regimen and rather enjoy the workout.
So, get pumped and start exercising. It'll be good for your overall health.
© 2002 Real Living with Multiple Sclerosis