The OMS retreats can be seen as a “multi-modal health intervention”: it is meant to change multiple health behaviours at the same time. These health behaviours include diet, exercise, meditation, sun exposure and vitamin D supplementation, and smoking cessation (if applicable).
Little is known about how people with MS engage with multi-modal interventions.
Do they take up all these recommendations at once? And how do they go with following the recommendations in the long term?
To answer these questions we interviewed 18 people (5 men and 13 women) with MS 3-5 years after they attended an OMS retreat.
Our results (just published here) indicated that almost everyone attempted to make the recommended changes immediately after the retreat.
Many had already made changes in their health behaviours before the retreat, based on the OMS book or website. All participants said the retreat was useful for information gathering, decision making, attitudinal changes, and practical strategies regarding health behaviours. They said it was a very positive experience that provided a sense of hope for the future and control over wellbeing.
At the time of the interviews, 3-5 years after the retreat, the diet recommendations were still followed most of the time by the majority. However, many indicated that when eating meals out of the home (at restaurants, work, friends) they struggled to follow the recommendations and would eat some non-recommended food. The majority was still supplementing with vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, and found these the easiest recommendations to follow.
In contrast, most really struggled with recommendations that were seen as “time-consuming” such as exercising and meditation. Very few were exercising or meditating the recommended amount, and there an episodic, stop-start pattern was common. Especially work and family responsibilities would often take priority. Fatigue and other MS symptoms, or (fear of) injuries, also prevent people from exercising regularly.
PRACTICAL TIPS THAT MAY HELP YOU WITH HEALTHY BEHAVIOURS FROM OUR STUDY AND THE AUTHORS:
- Getting advice from a trained physiotherapist or exercise physiologist can help in finding the right exercises for you and preventing injury.
- Create a plan for how you can fit exercise and/or meditation into your daily routine, sacrifice time you spend on activities that do not benefit your health (e.g. watching tv, social media).
- Make a plan A, B and C so you are always able to do some level of exercise and/or meditation, no matter how much time or energy you have.
- Active transport, e.g. walking or cycling, may be a time-efficient way to increase your exercise.
- Having support from friends, family and healthcare providers is very important. Ask those around you to support you. Try to connect to supportive people on the OMS forum.
- Self-monitoring (e.g. keeping a food diary, exercise log, or using a step counter or smart watch) can give you useful insights into how you are tracking and what strategies work for you.
- Have a look at some delicious OMS recipes here for some new inspiration!