Exercise and MS: Types of Workouts and Why It is Important

September 14, 2023
Exercise and MS

You have been diagnosed with MS (or you have been living with the disease already longer) and you have come across how important exercise is for people living with MS and how it can influence the progression in a positive way.

Now you are wondering what you should do and don’t know where to start. Cardio? Stretching? Strength training? Or is there something else? Well in short: anything that you, enjoy and do consistently is great. Of course it can be very challenging when you have fatigue, bladder or mobility issues however most people feel a surge in energy and betterment of mobility, flexibility and an overall quality of life. You want to make sure what you pick is not only fun but also safe for you. Let’s take a closer look into the different types of movement.

Maybe you have heard of aerobic and anaerobic exercise but what is that?

Aerobic exercises are exercises that raises a person’s heart rate and breathing rate over a longer period of time and focuses on endurance. Anaerobic exercises on the contrary are exercises that are shorter or short and the activity level is more intense.

Brisk walking, swimming or riding a bike are examples for aerobic exercise while sprinting or weightlifting belong to the group of anaerobic exercise.

What should I do?

Sadly the answer always in: check with a healthcare professional and that it depends on your personal preferences as well as your ability. Here are a few starting points to help you find what works for you.

  1. Cardio: Aka aerobic exercises as mentioned before are walking, swimming, cycling or even a stationary bike if that is something that would help with your balance. All of these movements help your cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, regulars weight or strengthens the immune system just to name a few.
  2. Strength Training: Many people think strength training means going to the gym and looking like a body builder but it is not the only way to build muscle. You can use your body weight, free weights, resistance bands or weight machines (at the gym for example) to help you build strength and improve your overall body function.
  3. Balance and Coordination Exercises: These could be exercises that are quite challenging for someone with MS but they are very important to prevent or reduce the risk of falling. Examples are heel-to-toe walking, standing on one leg, marching in place or balance exercises on a soft surface.
  4. Yoga and Tai Chi: I am sure many of you have heard that Yoga or Tai Chi can help with various things such as balance, flexibility but also relaxation. It is almost 2 in 1 – it helps with the stress and the mind but also the body.
  5. Stretching: People with MS tend to be less flexible and have (find better word) often muscle stiffness. Stretching can help with easing the symptoms related to that.
  6. Aquatic Exercise: Last but not least: anything in water is low-impact workout and therefore is suitable for people with MS who have mobility issues but it can also help when balance is of concern. It can be swimming or water aerobics.

As you can see all of them are beneficial to you. It truly does not matter which one you pick. I always encourage my clients to pick what they love the most because it increases the chances of doing it consistently (and consistence is key!). The second thing to think about is what matters most to your health. Do you have balance issues or are weak in one area and would benefit from getting stronger. Maybe there is an exercise that covers two birds with a stone? Alternatively, you can also switch it up and do one day (or one week) the one exercise and the other one the other exercise. Again, as mentioned many times: find what you love and the rest will fall into place.

Still not sure, reach out to me!

Ingrid Adelsberger