We hear the message everywhere: Regular, moderate physical exercise is good for body, mind, and spirit. Exercise reduces the possibility of coronary disease, lowers blood pressure, raises the good HDL cholesterol, helps to control weight, and cuts the risk of diabetes. It helps protect against stroke, osteoporosis, and certain types of cancer. And many people regularly turn to exercise to reduce stress.
But what does this mean for people like me, who live with MS? Fatigue, weakness, and lack of coordination are often everyday facts of life.
It turns out that we have extra incentives to do everything possible to stay fit. A 1996 study of people with mild to moderate disability from MS, conducted under the supervision of Jack Petajan, MD, PhD, an MS specialist at the University of Utah, demonstrated the payoffs. Regular aerobic exercise--exercise vigorous enough to raise the pulse and respiration rate--increased fitness, arm and leg strength, workout capacity, and improved the participants' bowel and bladder control.
People in the study also reported reduced depression, fatigue, and anger.
Other studies have shown that exercise can combat the loss of fitness caused by a sedentary lifestyle and be therapeutic for such MS-related problems as spasticity and poor balance.
There's even more: Exercise builds a reserve of muscle strength and cardiovascular function. Then, if an attack or exacerbation of MS calls for a time-out from physical activity, the reserve is available. When the symptoms subside and the person is able to go back to a more normal life, there is a better foundation on which to rebuild.
However, all benefits of exercise are short-term; that is, they fade away if exercise is discontinued. On the other hand, all exercise provides benefits. If you find you can't do what you used to do, don't give up. You can...