Exercise is key in maintaining function in people with MS. In addition to showing positive effects on walking speed, endurance, and aerobic capacity in MS, exercise can also lower stress and improve mood, energy, physical health, and overall wellbeing. Aquatic exercise, yoga, and tai chi are among the many great exercise options that have positive effects for individuals with MS and may also be customized to suit one’s preferences and ability levels.
Although no specific “MS diet” has been universally accepted by the medical community, food choices can make a difference in important issues such as energy level, bladder and bowel function, and overall health. MS specialists often recommend a low-fat, high-fiber diet, such as that recommended by the American Heart Association. Doctors agree that eating a healthy diet to promote general wellness and prevent certain other medical conditions could potentially have a positive impact on MS and its symptoms.
Mindfulness has enormous potential for people with MS. The goal of mindfulness is to teach individuals to stay fully in the present, without added judgment or assumptions about their present or future situations. This technique has been shown to significantly decrease anxiety, depression, and stress in many conditions.
Guided imagery promotes biophysical and biochemical changes, bringing about benefits that range from improved mood, reduced depression, and lowered anxiety, to reductions in blood pressure and blood sugar, improved immune functions, and a reduction in pain. Guided imagery requires a state of deep relaxation, and adds the component of a gentle direction to encourage sensory images. A healthcare professional trained in guided imagery may use a script to first help the individual to relax, and then he or she may give a topic to imagine – such as a favorite place or an important goal. CDs, books, and other options are also available.
* Individuals should consult their physician prior to making any changes to their exercise routine or diet. Information shown originally appeared in MSAA’s booklet, Understanding Progression in MS (2017).