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Exercise for MS
Good health and it's effect on the body can't every be underestimated. If your health is as good as it can be, then even with multiple sclerosis (MS), you are doing a good thing for your body. That’s why exercise plays a key roles in living well with MS. If your body isn't kept healthy, then your immune system can't be healthy. For your immune system to be at its best, despite its issue with MS, exercise will help maintain it. Exercise will indirectly aid your immune system by setting up your body to its most efficient state.

A good diet and exercise plan takes motivation and persistence. Muscle burns more calories than fat, therefore, exercise that maintains or increases muscle is essential. One pound of muscle can burn approximately 25 times more calories than a pound of fat. Muscle tissue uses the most energy and therefore, determines the rate at which the body burns energy. This increases metabolic rate. Without a proper regime, a dieter loses weight more slowly and has less success of the excess weight staying off.

Exercise can help ease the symptoms of MS, but it's important to take precautions if an exercise program is to be successful. It's important to not overdo any exercise since it can be counterproductive for those with MS. If you overdo it you can end up straining an already compromised muscular system, increasing pain and causing your body and mind to become overstressed, overworked, and overtired. Never exercise to the point of fatigue.

Being physically active is very important in living a longer, healthier life. Physically activity can help relieve stress and provide an overall feeling of well-being. Physical activity can also help achieve and maintain a healthy weight and lower risk for chronic disease. The benefits of physical activity may include:
Improves self-esteem and feelings of well-being
Increases fitness level
Helps build and maintain bones, muscles, and joints
Builds endurance and muscle strength
Enhances flexibility and posture
Helps manage weight
Lowers risk of heart disease, colon cancer, and type 2 diabetes
Helps control blood pressure
Reduces feelings of depression and anxiety

Physical activity and nutrition work together for better health. In general, being active increases the amount of calories burned. As people age their metabolism slows, so maintaining energy balance requires moving more and eating less.

Some types of physical activity are especially beneficial:

Aerobic activities – speeds heart rate and breathing and improves heart and lung fitness. Examples are brisk walking, jogging, and swimming.

Resistance, strength building, and weight-bearing activities – helps build and maintain bones and muscles by working them against gravity. Examples are carrying a child, lifting weights, and walking. They help to build and maintain muscles and bones.

Balance and stretching activities – enhances physical stability and flexibility, which reduces risk of injuries. Examples are gentle stretching, dancing, yoga, martial arts, and t'ai chi.

How Much Exercise

It's suggested that at the minimum, do moderate intensity activity for 30 minutes most days, or preferably every day. This activity is in addition to the usual daily activities. Increasing the intensity or the amount of time of activity can have additional health benefits and may be needed to control body weight.

About 60 minutes a day of moderate physical activity may be needed to prevent weight gain. For those who have lost weight, at least 60 to 90 minutes a day may be needed to maintain the weight loss. At the same time, calorie needs shouldn't be exceeded. Children and teenagers should be physically active for at least 60 minutes every day, or most days.

While 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity physical activities provide health benefits, being active for longer or doing more vigorous activities can provide even greater health benefits. This will use up more calories per hour. No matter what activity is chosen, it can be done all at once, or divided into two or three parts during the day. Even 10-minutes sessions of activity count toward your total.

Most adults don't need to see their health care provider before starting to exercise at a moderate level. However, men over the age of 40 and women over the age of 50 planning to start vigorous physical activity should consult a health care provider.

Individuals with one of the conditions below, as well as MS, should also consult a health care provider for help in designing a safe program of physical activity:

A chronic health problem such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, asthma, or obesity.

High risk for heart disease, such as a family history of heart disease or stroke, eating a diet high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol, smoking, or having a sedentary lifestyle.

Types of Exercise

Exercise may be more difficult with MS, but there are ways to accommodate all ability levels. Many studies have shown that people with MS clearly benefit from exercise. Even people with advanced disease can benefit no matter how small the exercise may be. Those with MS respond to exercise the same way as those without MS in that they become more fit.

Different kinds of exercise help in different ways. Aerobic exercise (such as walking) improves the fitness of your heart and lungs. Weight or resistance training improves strength. Breathing exercises will help improve how well your lungs work. Almost everyone can find some form of healthy physical activity that is both challenging and fun. Whatever you choose, set realistic goals. Studies show that people who start slowly achieve more in the end.

Water is an ideal environment for exercising your weakened limbs and muscles. The reduced gravity and added buoyancy of water allows for more range of motion and flexibility than you could get on land. Water also provides a cooling effect, which can prevent overheating, often a cause of temporary worsening in MS.

Yoga is a type of exercise in which you move your body into positions that stretch your muscles and joints and make them stronger. Yoga also helps to reduce stress. Many with MS have often reported that, after practicing yoga, they are more relaxed and that many times, the severity of their symptoms is reduced. They are able to feel more in their feet and legs, and are able to move their legs more easily. Yoga postures release muscular tension through stretching, and this relaxes the body and mind. The nerves are massaged and stretched during yoga, releasing tension, and increasing the ability of the nerves to communicate to the muscles and other parts of the body.

Special Exercise Concerns

One concern many people with MS have is that exercise can trigger a relapse. This, however, is not true. None of the studies have shown that exercise leads to an increase in disease activity or an MS relapse.

Some people with MS are sensitive to heat, which means they notice that their symptoms either show up or get worse when their body temperature rises. This can very easily happen when you exercise.

Heat sensitivity (or increased core body temperature) increases MS symptoms for 80% of those with MS. They may experience numbness, tingling, or blurred vision when exercising. These MS symptoms shouldn't cause alarm since they are temporary and should decline within half an hour after stopping you exercising. They aren't a true relapse, but they may limit how long you can exercise.

To overcome heat sensitivity, many people with MS cool their body before or during exercise. People can "pre-cool" by dunking themselves in cold water, taking a cold shower, using ice packs, or drinking cold drinks. Cooling during exercise can be done by exercising in water by swimming or water aerobics, drinking cold drinks, or wearing a special cooling suit.

You should note that cooling isn't good for everyone. Temperature sensitivity varies in those with MS and some people are actually helped by heat. It's just another thing to think about when deciding what works best for you.

Best for You?

Every person's response to exercise is different. So if it doesn’t seem to help you, don’t get discouraged. The way your MS is progressing can make a difference in whether exercise helps you or not. That's why it's important to work with your doctor to create your exercise program.

Your doctor can help you decide if there are certain MS symptoms that specific exercises can help you with. Then, together you can choose what kind, which combinations, and how much exercise will be best for you. Moderate exercise for 20 minutes a day can give you same benefits as intense workouts that leave you tired and sweaty. Your program should be based on your unique needs, and should change when your needs do.