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27 September 2023

The seven pillars of the Overcoming MS Program

Do you know the seven pillars that make up the Overcoming MS Program? If you’re new to the Program, you can read more about the pillars here!

The Program was created by Professor George Jelinek in 1999, it started as a list he wrote and kept on his fridge and was later published in a book in 2000. The seven pillars which make up the Program provide the holistic approach which makes the Program so effective.

As a charity, we want to make the pillars feel as accessible and relevant as possible for our whole community, so we have decided to rename three of the seven pillars to make them more inclusive and ensure they reflect the broadest interpretation of the Program. Professor George Jelinek has agreed the new names are a positive change for the Program and is very supportive and enthusiastic about this change!

Which pillars have we renamed?

  • Exercise will now be called Physical Activity, to better reflect all the ways that people with MS like to move, from gardening to running, or yoga to playing with their kids.
  • Meditation will now be called Stress Management, to better incorporate all the mindful activities (including meditation) that reduce stress.
  • Family Prevention will now be called Family Health, because following the Overcoming MS lifestyle does so much more for health than prevent MS.

The content within these pillars isn’t changing, the updated names simply better reflect the guidance and recommendations of the Program.

The seven pillars of the Overcoming MS Program

Here is the full list of the pillars in the Overcoming MS Program, with the updated names:

  • Diet
  • Vitamin D & Sunlight
  • Physical Activity
  • Stress Management
  • Medication
  • Family Health
  • Change your life, for life

Why have we chosen to rename these three pillars?

‘Exercise’ becomes ‘Physical Activity’

Renaming the ‘Exercise’ pillar to ‘Physical Activity’ means that it encompasses all different types of physical activity and movement. For example, individual exercise, group exercise, stretching, yoga, walking and any other way people like to move. Things like walking the dog, doing housework, gardening and playing with kids all ‘count’ as physical activity, even though they are not typically classified as exercise. We want to encourage our community to know that whatever your level of ability or fitness, there is something that you can do to be more active. For anyone new to the Program or currently on the Program, this new name makes it clearer that whatever type of physical activity you prefer, it is part of the Program recommendations and it is benefitting you!

The Program recommends vigorous movement or physical activity for 30 minutes a day, eventually aiming to do this 5 days a week. For more details on the Program recommendations for physical activity, read more here.

‘Meditation’ becomes ‘Stress Management’

Stress Management is the new name for the meditation pillar, as while meditation is one form of stress management, there are so many other ways our community manage their stress, which we know is so crucial for managing MS symptoms.

So, whether you like to practice mindfulness, gratitude, meditation, or other forms of stress management, we support you and those choices which are all leading to a better and healthier life with MS.

We will continue to provide guided meditations as we know research has shown that regular meditation practice can help to reduce MS symptoms, and the Program recommends 30 minutes of daily mindfulness. We will also reference other options for managing your stress such as mindfulness, breathwork, being in nature and mindful activities such as playing music and making art. For more details on the Program recommendations for stress management, read more here.

‘Family Prevention’ becomes ‘Family Health.’

We feel that ‘Family Health’ is a more coherent way to describe how we want to support our community to protect and improve their family’s health.

Whether it’s encouraging them to take Vitamin D supplements, improve their diet, exercise more, or follow other parts of the Program, we believe your family’s health is as important as your own health, which is why it’s a key pillar in the program.

The Overcoming MS lifestyle is not only about preventing or managing MS, it can help prevent many lifestyle diseases in partners, children, siblings and extended family, including the family you choose such as close friends. So, it’s a lifestyle choice that will make everyone healthier! For more details on the Program recommendations for family health, read more here.

What’s next?

The content within these pillars isn’t changing, the updated names simply better reflect the guidance and recommendations of the Program which we know will be more accessible for newcomers to the Program in particular, so there’s nothing new to learn and the recommendations remain unchanged.

If you have questions about the Program and want support from the community to help you on your journey, why not join the Live Well Hub? It’s a supportive, inclusive and friendly space full of like-minded people living well with MS. Click here to join!