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Get Moving with an Online MS Fitness Program

Get Moving with an Online MS Fitness Program

Web-based tools may help people with multiple sclerosis be more active

When it comes to multiple sclerosis (MS), one of the best ways to fend off disability is to stay active while you can. But finding the energy to get rolling can feel like a herculean effort. Researchers from the University of Illinois may have found the trick: an online coaching program designed just for people with MS.

More stepping, less sitting
The researchers developed an online fitness program to help people with MS get moving. The website provided information on how to become active as well as support tools, such as one-on-one live video coaching. People enrolled in the program had goals for the number of steps to take per day. To track their progress, they wore pedometers and recorded their daily step counts into a diary. Participants were also asked at the beginning of the study to estimate the amount of time they spent sitting every day for the past week.

After six months, some people had increased their step counts by nearly 40 percent and were sitting about two hours less per day. That's no minor feat! The most successful participants were those with relapsing-remitting MS and mild disability and who were not overweight.

The next step for researchers is to learn more about what motivates people with MS to undertake physical activity, especially among people who are overweight or have more disability, and to see whether this program really adds up to noticeable health benefits. If you're interested in participating in the study, the National MS Society has information on who's eligible and how to contact the research team. If you're not eligible, talk with your doctor about ways to become more active.

Easy ways to get moving
The study was presented at a conference, so the results are still considered preliminary. But several studies have shown that physical activity can help preserve mobility for people with MS. Staying active improves your strength and heart health and also boosts your thinking and mood.

In addition to an online fitness program to help you set goals, track your progress and get support, consider making one of these four MS-friendly workouts part of your normal routine.

  • Walking. Before you set out on the trails, be sure your footwear can support you. Don't just go for the trendy new trainers. Be sure your shoes are lightweight; have a low, broad heel base for good balance and stability; and have a light tread on the bottom to help prevent foot drags.
  • Yoga. With the right class, teacher or video, yoga is a good choice for staying active without putting too much strain on your body. Just be sure the poses have been adapted for people with MS. If you use a cane or walker, try a class for seniors, where many of the poses can be done sitting down.
  • Tai chi. When done sitting down, tai chi is another great option that focuses on breathing and gentle movements. Tai chi instructors follow a philosophy of adapting the practice to each student's needs, so don't be afraid to talk with the instructor before signing up.
  • Pool exercises. Swimming and doing other simple exercises in a pool requires less effort and helps promote relaxation. And the cool water can help keep your temperature down. Talk with your doctor or physical therapist about marches, leg lifts and stretches for the pool.

Medically reviewed in December 2019.

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