The recent MS buzz now really highlights how valuable exercise is in managing MS. Yes – exercise IS good for managing MS symptoms!
Many of us with MS have known this for a long time, but there are also many of us who were originally told, at our diagnoses, that exercise was not recommended for MS’ers as it might exacerbate symptoms (thought due to the body heat generated). Funnily enough, now that exercise is officially sanctioned by the medical community for managing MS, there are many of us MS’ers who have been exercising the entire time saying to themselves : “Ya – I told ya that ages ago! Haven’t you been paying attention?” I must admit – I am one of those people say “Ya – I know that already!”
One of the things I noted over my years of having MS is that those that were faithful to exercise, no matter their individual MS progression, fared better physically and emotionally than those who dropped exercise from their lives. I have observed this to be especially true for people who may have never been athletically-inclined at any point in their lives versus those who had some kind of athletic history. In either case, the biggest obstacle to starting or maintaining an exercise program for MS symptom management seems to be one’s attitude.
The thing about exercise is that inevitably one needs to be willing to push the edges of your comfort zone to some extent. This could mean realizing that their will likely be some muscle discomfort, especially as you begin an exercise program, but that it does not mean that you are harming yourself. (Many people have heard that old saying “No Pain, no Gain.” Once one understands that it refers to pushing your boundaries in a healthy way, one can understand the definition of Pain in the saying. It does NOT mean hurting oneself!)
Athletes know that when you are training for something, you have to push the edges a bit to improve. You have to follow a well-laid out training regimen. You have to eat well, sleep well, live well and balanced. You have to make some sacrifices in some cases. You have to motivate yourself and keep motivating yourself, digging deep when it may feel the hardest to do.
Athletic competition clearly defines the unique power of our attitude.~ Bart Starr
At a recent MS Society meeting I attended, I noted how the recommendations for Exercise noted the frequency and intensity of exercise…and that many of the people attending felt that they had to stick to those recommendations religiously. For example, since the recommendations include exercising 2 times per week, then the common assumption was that ONLY 2 times per week should be done. Many voiced fear of starting to exercise, or voiced an inability to excercise at all. But those recommendations are simply a guide – not meant to be taken as hard-lined gospel!
The thing is – if you can do more – DO MORE! You know your body best…so only you can decide what is best for you.
Carolyne’s tips for using exercise to manage your MS:
- Treat yourself like a valuable athlete. You are in this for the long haul and YOU are your most valuable asset. Never forget that.
- Define your goal. Write it down. Tell someone. Be accountable to that goal.
- Start small. Baby steps – one tiny step at a time. If all you can do is five minutes of an activity, then start at five minutes. Add an extra minute each session. before you know it, you will be doing 30 minutes! Or more!
- Keep an exercise log. Get to know your body. Note how your body changes…note every change, every nuance. Does your activity improve your symptoms? Make them worse? Do you need to change something? This information can be invaluable in the long-term management of your MS!
- Schedule your exercise sessions. Be dedicated to your exercise – it will help keep your life working at optimal function.
- Be willing to push your boundaries. Don’t be afraid of some discomfort.
- Do something fun and that you enjoy. If you hate what you are doing, you are not likely to keep it up for long. Look into new activities. Drag some family or friends along with you if you don’t want to do it alone.
- K.I.S.S – Keep It Simple and Safe. Remember…you are an MS athlete, no matter how big or small your goal.
My message is, you can accomplish anything, not just on the athletic field, if you’re willing to work pay the price. It doesn’t matter what your age.~ Herschel Walker
Whatever you choose to do, remember that you are an MS athlete…no matter how you choose to define it.