MS Means...Living and Laughing with Multiple Sclerosis

One Woman's Odyssey about Coping with Chronic Illness

MS & Exercise

“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable!”
― Jillian Michaels

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Exercise recommendations have come full circle, eh? From myths and assumptions to science and knowledge.

I remember when I was first diagnosed in 2002, i was told by the neurologist that I had at that time that my days of hard exercise and athleticism were over. He told me that I would have to do only gentle movement, and not get overheated because that would make my MS symptoms worse.

Prior to that -when my mother had been diagnosed in 1993 – she too was told that, other than occasional gentle walking and movement in the pool, exercise was not to be challenging. She should not work up a sweat. They told her she would be in a wheelchair within six months of her MS diagnosis.

When I was told that I could no longer push myself in the athletic way I knew…well, if you have read my story, you will know that I ended up gaining 85 lbs and getting to the point of needing a wheelchair at times, unable to move much and suffering awful and increasing pain, mainly in my legs. Basically – I was told that a big part of who I am (athletic) had to be pretty much stuffed away.

Since then, a lot more research and discovery has occurred in the MS world. Doctors know more, MSers know more.  The world knows more. Exercise benefits for those of us with MS are now recognized by the medical community!

Exercise is very important to maintaining your optimal health (physical, mental, and emotional) AND your quality of life with MS!

The benefits of regular exercise and daily physical activity in MS are amazing – and every person achieves benefits of some sort. Improved strength, endurance and even better bowel and/or bladder function are possible, as well as lessened fatigue and improved mood.  Self-esteem and personal confidence improve. If personal identity has been affected, exercise can help you restore or rediscover it. I have found myself that when I can find that “sweet spot” of activity, the more active I am, the more active I CAN be. This just makes me that much happier, comfortable, and more confident. (I just have to learn not to push past the sweet spot – that is probably my over-achiever tendency interfering though! :) )

One of my favorite websites that help MSer’s understand the value of exercise and staying active is Active MSers.

There are many options to being active, depending on your interests, time, and abilities. It doesn’t matter what type of MS you have, every single person can benefit from the right exercises and the right activity. Exercising and being active provides an opportunity to take charge of your life and learn to make the most of what you have.

Here are a few of my own tips:

  • Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. Push the envelope a bit – but do it wisely, not recklessly.
  • It is ok to sweat – even to sweat hard.  Mitigate heating effects by having a plan to deal with it (like ice packs, water, type of exercise – such as swimming where overhheating is less of an issue).
  • Learn to understand your body. Understand that there can be discomfort or even pain with exercise – for everyone – even those without MS. Learn to understand the differences between the pain you can and even should push past, and the pain that means injury or danger that means “all stop”!
  • Make exercise a solid part of your lifestyle, for your entire life.

Carolyne’s Exercise Links:

Exercise to stimulate, not to annihilate. The world wasn’t formed in a day, and neither were we. Set small goals and build upon them. ~ Lee Haney




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