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Gretchen Hawley doing a pose with one leg bent back and one leg standing.

S3 Episode 39

Episode 39: Rethinking exercise for people with MS

We all know that exercise is a key component of healthy living, and particularly important too if you have MS, which is why it plays such a prominent role as one of the steps of the OMS Program. But did you know that when you’re exercising your body, you’re working out your nervous system as well? Our guest on this episode of Living Well with MS, Dr Gretchen Hawley, will explain neuroplasticity (for us lay people, that’s the brain’s ability to continually change, a sign of brain health) and how exercise can impact it, as well as share her insights on helping people with MS improve their strength, balance and mobility.  


Gretchen Hawley is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and a Multiple Sclerosis Certified Specialist. After graduating from Simmons University in Boston, she developed a Multiple Sclerosis program alongside two of the city’s top MS neurologists. Dr Hawley utilizes the concept of neuroplasticity to improve strength, balance and walking in those with MS by using specific, functional exercises.

She has been a keynote speaker at several National MS Society events and other MS focused conferences in 2018 and 2019 and presents frequently to MS groups. Dr Hawley brings a keen understanding of the challenges faced by people living with MS and has developed a virtual physical therapy program to help people improve their MS symptoms while in the comfort of their own home and guided by an MS specialist. Dr Hawley resides in Buffalo with her dog, Finn.   


  • We hear a lot about new training methods, such as HIIT (high intensity interval training); is it effective for people with MS? 

  • How long should the intensity intervals be? 

  • If you’re doing strength training as well, should you do cardio before or after? 

  • What are different types of strengthening for people with MS? 

  • How does an “MS-specific” exercise differ from regular training? 

  • Can you provide some examples of “MS-specific” exercise? 

  • What’s the right exercise order for different types of exercises? 

  • Is it better to do an exercise like walking even if you’re having an off day and do it badly or wait till you can do it well with good form? 

  • How do you find the motivation to exercise consistently? 

  • Do you recommend days off from exercise? 

  • You have an online wellness program called The MSing Link. Can you tell our audience a bit about it? 


  • Learn more about Dr. Gretchen Hawley’s online MS wellness program, The MSing Link (SPECIAL OFFER! $15 off any membership if you use promo code OMS2021) 

  • Check our Dr. Gretchen Hawley on YouTube 

Coming up on our next episode:

Next up from the OMS podcast family: starting August 9, meet Gillian Robertson, who lives in the UK and volunteers as a recipe contributor to the OMS website, on Living Well with MS Coffee Break #20, part of our ongoing series introducing you to members of the dynamic OMS community from around the globe.  

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