Today is World MS Day and we’re celebrating the theme, “Connections”. Connections are particularly important in the multiple sclerosis (MS) community, now more than ever – community connections, self-connection and connections to quality-care.
We spent some time with Luke Maddalena, our Senior Exercise Physiologist, to discuss exercise for people with MS. Luke shares why exercise is so important and provides us with some key tips you can implement at home if you or your loved one is living with MS.
Luke, tell us a bit about yourself and your experience in helping clients with MS
I have been working as an exercise physiologist for the last ten years and have been at Royal Rehab for the last five, working in the Day Rehabilitation program. As an exercise physiologist, I am trained in helping people manage their chronic health conditions with exercise prescriptions – ensuring that they are prescribed safe and effective exercise programs that address and manage the symptoms of their conditions. Exercise is an important aspect in the rehabilitation and management of MS and I have seen first-hand the benefits and gains people have made to their lives from implementing good exercise habits.
How does exercise help with MS?
We all know that exercise is a great way for everyone to stay strong, keep fit and control weight, but for people with MS, exercise is crucial to managing and improving the symptoms of fatigue, muscle stiffness, weakness, and walking (gait) difficulties. As an exercise physiologist, I’ve seen first-hand with my clients and the research backs it up – exercise improves outcomes for people with MS. The benefits include improved brain health, improved moods, improved cognition, increased mobility, improved cardiovascular health and more.
Is exercise for people with MS safe?
Yes! Exercise is as safe for people with MS as it is for people without MS however it is sensible to me mindful of the side-effects of MS. For example if you suffer from heat sensitivity, do not exercise in the middle of the day. Your treating physiotherapist or exercise physiologist can tailor a program for you that suits your goals and abilities.
How often do you recommend people with MS should exercise?
Exercises should ideally be performed regularly and I recommend to my clients that they start small. For mild to moderate MS, 30 minutes of intense aerobic exercises twice a week is ideal. You can break these 30 minutes to increments of 10 minutes each if preferred. It’s important to find exercises you enjoy as you are more likely to stick with it!
What type of exercise do you recommended for MS clients?
Stretching, strengthening and aerobic exercises are all beneficial to people with MS. However, it is crucial you speak to your physiotherapist or exercise physiologist to get a custom program that suits your abilities and targets your goals.
Aerobic exercise: should be completed twice a week with the goal of achieving 30 minutes on each of those days. If you cannot complete 30 minutes consecutively, look to break it down into smaller efforts i.e. 3 sets of 10 minutes. Walking would be the aerobic exercise of choice, however if you prefer cycling you could use an exercise bike.
Strength exercises: can also be completed two times per week to start and should look to address the major muscle groups of the body. Using bodyweight, resistance bands or free weights you can create resistance to work against and strengthen your muscles. An example for strengthening your legs could be pressing up onto your toes or completing squats.
Your physiotherapist or exercise physiologist can provide you with information on technique and ensure you are doing the exercises correctly. This helps to minimise your risk of injury and ensure you’re getting the most benefit possible!
Are there any exercises that MS clients can do at home?
When completing exercises at home, try to keep the movements functional and safe. If you are finding it increasingly difficult getting up from chairs, then practice standing up and down from a chair. If you find you are not able to walk for as long as you were previously able due to fatigue, then each time you walk try and walk for 30 seconds longer or take 10 more steps. It is important, especially with home exercises, that you have the right support. If it feels too difficult, stop and speak to your physio.
Most importantly, make it fun! Invite your friends and family to participate in exercises. Set yourself small goals and celebrate when you achieve them. Exercise will become a large part of your management strategy – so stick with it, consistency is key, and you will start to see some benefits from the exercises soon enough!
To enquire about programs with Luke, visit our Day Rehabilitation Programs page or contact us on (02) 9808 0522 today!