Exercise Improved Quality of Life for MS Patients

Multiple sclerosis patients reported improved fatigue and health related quality of life

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Exercise can improve function and quality of life for people living with the most chronic diseases. New research suggests that people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) are among those who benefit from exercise.

A randomized trial found that individuals with MS who participated in a supervised and home exercise program reported improvements in fatigue and health-related quality of life.

The six-week exercise intervention also had lasting positive impacts on exercise behaviors, the study discovered.

"Ask your doctor for a referral to an exercise expert."

Anouska Carter, senior sport science officer at the Centre for Sport and Exercise Science at Sheffield Hallam University in Sheffield, UK, led this study, which evaluated the nine-month effects of an exercise intervention on physical activity levels, fatigue and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) in people with multiple sclerosis.

Carter’s team named the program Exercise Intervention for People with MS (EXIMS).

A total of 120 people with MS were randomly assigned to participate in a three-month exercise program plus usual care or usual care only.

“Studies show that aerobic exercise, resistance exercise and combined programs bring health benefits to [people with MS],” the authors wrote.

Based on this knowledge, during weeks 1-6, those in the intervention group attended two one-hour supervised exercise sessions a week and engaged in a self-directed exercise session at home. During weeks 7-12, participants had one supervised session and two exercise sessions they directed themselves.

Aerobic exercise was the key activity for the intervention group, with walking being the most common exercise. Participants were asked to complete short bouts of walking or other aerobic activity mixed with intervals of rest. The periods of aerobic activity increased and the rest periods were shortened as the study progressed.

The researchers explained, “Home exercise during the intervention period comprised walking, use of home exercise equipment, public facilities (including swimming) and gardening for the majority of participants.”

To encourage long-term exercise habits, the supervised sessions also included cognitive-behavioral techniques, such as goal setting, finding social support, understanding benefits and costs of exercise.

The Godin Leisure Time Exercise Questionnaire (GLTEQ) was used to measure progress. This survey asks respondents to recall how often they engaged in strenuous, moderate or mild exercise over the previous seven days.

A number of test instruments were used to measure fatigue, HRQofL, functional ability and neurological impairment.

Outcomes were assessed at the beginning of the study (baseline), three months and nine months.

At three months, the research team found that the individuals who were in the exercise group reported increased exercise and improvements in fatigue and many HRQoL measures.

Improved emotional well-being, social function and overall quality of life were also reported at nine months.

"This pragmatic approach to implementing exercise increases self-reported exercise behavior, improves fatigue and leads to a sustained enhancement of HRQoL domains in [people with MS],” the researchers concluded.

Jim Crowell, owner and head trainer of Integrated Fitness in Pittsburgh, told dailyRx News, "I've had the privilege of working with a wide variety of people, and some of the best progress stories both mentally and physically have been with clients who have a pre-existing medical history. I have seen numerous cases of people adding exercise and seeing both physical and mental improvements in their lives. It is a powerful combination and a great one!"

The study was published January 14 in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal.

This project was supported by the UK Multiple Sclerosis Society. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
January 16, 2014
Last Updated:
January 17, 2014