More MS news articles for June 2001

People with MS benefit from special exercises

May 30, 2001
The Orange County Register

Michelle Hamel misses many things about tennis. Sprinting to make a volley. Holding the body in perfect balance to serve.

Hamel, 40, of Fountain Valley, hopes she will be able to play again. But for now, she's grateful that she can be active in other ways. Hamel has multiple sclerosis, a chronic disease that attacks the nervous system.

There are 400,000 people nationwide with the disease, 16,000 of whom are in Southern California.

Symptoms of MS vary. Some people experience one or several of the following: muscle weakness, poor coordination, unusual fatigue, muscle tightness, spasticity and paralysis.

Over 15 years, Hamel developed balance problems and needs the help of a walker or wheelchair. But Hamel attends strength-training and flexibility classes at local colleges.

"I refuse to be defined by my disability," she said. "I can do many things I've been doing. It just takes me longer and I may fall."

Hamel will attend Fitness for All, an all-day event Sunday in Huntington Beach in which people with MS learn about how to stay active while living with the disease. Hamel attended last year and found it empowering.

"Within the last 10 years, research has shown that exercise can help reduce fatigue, muscle weakness and improve balance and coordination," said Laura Houston of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Orange County Chapter.

Activities have to be tailored to meet all the exercise needs of patients, said Keith Glassman, a certified group exercise instructor who has worked with local people with MS. "All of my work with them is geared toward strengthening, stretching, toning and connecting the body to the mind," he said.

It's also important to keep the body temperature from rising too much, Glassman said. High body temperatures can exacerbate symptoms. For that reason, aquatic exercise, which helps cool the body, is the No. 1 exercise for people with MS.

This and specially designed versions of yoga, exercises with an inflatable ball, Pilates and walking will be taught at Fitness for All at Bally Total Fitness, 7862 Warner Ave. in Huntington Beach. Cost: $25. Information: (949) 752-1680.

More ab-solutions: Readers of last week's column asked how to do other abs exercises.

Hover: Lie face down with elbows next to chest, palms facing down. Lift yourself on toes and elbows. Hold ab muscles tightly. Keep spine neutral and avoid raising buttocks. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Lower. Repeat.

Reverse crunch: Lie flat on floor, lower back pressed to ground. Place hands beside head or extend arms along sides. Cross feet at ankles, lift feet off ground so knees create a 90-degree angle. Keeping much of back pressed to ground and abs contracted, raise tailbone slightly off ground in a slow, controlled manner. Exhale as you contract; inhale as you return to starting position. Avoid jerking lower body upward.