Physical Activities for Individuals with MS
By Maryann B. Hunsberger
People with MS know how tricky it can be to get enough physical exercise. Yet, opportunities exist. Wellness centers at local hospitals, the local Y, colleges, high school adult evening classes, and senior centers are all good places to call to find mild exercise programs that can be tolerated by individuals with MS.
National organizations sometimes have local classes geared toward people with disabilities. Some programs to choose from are:
The Arthritis Foundation has classes suitable for many people with MS. Their website, arthritis.org, has a “programs” section with various adapted exercise programs, including:
Walk with Ease: An exercise program designed to reduce pain and improve overall health for people who can stand for 10 minutes without increased pain.
Tai Chi: A program aimed at reducing pain and improving mental and physical wellbeing. The program uses gentle routines that are suitable for every fitness level.
Aquatic Program: This warm-water* non-weight-bearing exercise program is designed to reduce pain and improve overall health and is suitable for every fitness level. (*Please note that warm water is usually contraindicated in MS and is recommended to be below 85° F; water temperature should be discussed prior to starting an aquatic program.)
Exercise Program: A low-impact program that helps reduce pain and decrease stiffness. The gentle range-of-motion exercises are suitable for every fitness level.
Individuals seeking a Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer can search the American College of Sports Medicine’s Pro Finder link at certification.acsm.org. These trainers lead people with disabilities in safe, adapted exercise.
Individuals with MS who can’t keep up with their old treadmill routine might like underwater treadmills. Because these treadmills are on a pool floor, at least half of the body is submerged in water, removing weight from joints and allowing for a pain-free cardiovascular workout. Call local physical therapy organizations and rehabilitation hospitals to find these treadmills.
Hippotherapy uses horseback riding to increase trunk strength, balance, and endurance. Participants often enjoy spending time with the horses, while the experience of sitting up high and feeling the horse walk effortlessly across the ground can also have a freeing effect on the rider. Visit americanhippotherapyassociation.org for more information.