Why is exercise important?

Exercise is vital for just about everyone, but it’s especially important for people with multiple sclerosis

Exercise is vital for just about everyone, but it’s especially important for people with MS. Direct evidence shows that exercise:

  • In people with mild MS – improves fitness and function
  • In people experiencing moderate to severe disability – maintains function 
  • In people with significant disability - improves muscle power, exercise tolerance and mobility-related activities (such as walking) 

Studies show that exercise improves mood and general well-being in people with MS, and that walkable distance increases with regular treadmill training. Interestingly, some benefits of exercise in MS are more pronounced in women. 

There is also indirect evidence that exercise may be helpful:

  • Two proteins, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and nerve growth factor (NGF), help repair neurons in MS. Exercise significantly boosts these proteins in people with MS 
  • People with MS who exercise show increased levels of neurotrophic factors 
  • Exercise helps prevent cognitive decline. Those who exercise the most show the least amount of brain shrinkage
  • Regular exercise reduces depression and improves quality of life for both people with MS and without 
  • Exercise may modify the course of MS through a neuroprotective effect 

Exercise can also correct ongoing physical problems caused by MS:

  • Movement exercise has a better effect on spasm and increased tone than stretching does
  • Core postural strength helps correct balance problems that threaten stability
  • Muscle strength protects from injury
  • Exercise counteracts the effects of deconditioning

Unfortunately, people with MS tend to exercise less. 

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