Weight training found to slow the progression of MS, contradicting earlier medical advice to avoid exercise

A study published online in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal revealed that resistance training may prove beneficial for patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). People with the condition were discouraged from engaging in any sort of physical exercise in fear that doing so would worsen the disease. However, the recent findings demonstrated that exercise does the exact opposite and may actually relieve many symptoms associated with the disease.

As part of the study, the researchers examined 35 MS patients for six months. Half of the patients were instructed to engage in resistance training, while the other half were told to live their lives as usual. The patients underwent brain scans before and after the six-month period. The researchers found that patients who underwent resistance training had less apparent brain shrinkage compared with the controls.

The research team was not able to explain the mechanism behind exercise’s beneficial effects on MS patients. A bigger, more in-depth research is warranted to confirm the results, the researchers said. (Related: Multiple sclerosis can be mitigated by making healthy lifestyle changes.)

“Physical exercise does not harm people with multiple sclerosis, but instead often has a positive impact on…their levels of fatigue, their muscle strength and their aerobic capacity…But the fact that physical training also seems to have a protective effect on the brain in people with multiple sclerosis is new and important knowledge…Among persons with multiple sclerosis, the brain shrinks markedly faster than normal. Drugs can counter this development, but we saw a tendency that training further minimises brain shrinkage in patients already receiving medication. In addition, we saw that several smaller brain areas actually started to grow in response to training…Phasing out drugs in favour of training is not realistic. On the other hand, the study indicates that systematic physical training can be a far more important supplement during treatment than has so far been assumed. This aspect needs to be thoroughly explored,” researcher Ulrik Dalgas told ScienceDaily.com.

Top 10 recommended exercises for patients with MS

The recent findings support previous studies that have demonstrated the beneficial effects of exercise on MS patients. In line with this, an article posted on the Everyday Health website has enumerated 10 recommended exercise routines for patients. The recommendations came from exercise physiologists, including two from the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD).

  1. Water aerobics – Water aerobics, swimming, and water walking provide an excellent cardio workout for MS patients.
  2. Wall squats – According to experts, wall squats help strengthen the patients’ leg muscles.
  3. Planking – Kelly Bonner, an exercise physiologist and information specialist at NCHPAD, noted that planks help strengthen the core muscles — abdominals, the obliques and the back — in MS patients.
  4. Modified planks – While traditional planks may prove more challenging for some patients, modified planks may prove to a be safer core exercise for these individuals.
  5. Russian twist – This exercise helps patients target their core muscles all while sitting down.
  6. The bridge – According to the health health experts, the bridge conditions multiple muscles including legs, glutes, lower back, and abdominal muscles.
  7. Wall push-ups – Wall push-ups help the patients increase their upper body strength, the article noted.
  8. Overhead press – As per the researchers, overhead press is another way of strengthening the upper body muscles.
  9. Marching in place – This type of exercise help patients improve their balance.
  10. Lunges – Lunges help patients promote their lower-body strength.

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