Date: 31 Mar 2010

MS, exercise, and the potential for older adults

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Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disorder of the central nervous system. The average onset of the disease is 30 years of age, and it afflicts women more often than men (ratio of approximately 2:1). The symptoms of the disease include fatigue, motor weakness, heat sensitivity, reduced mobility, abnormal gait mechanics, and poor balance. These symptoms decrease cognitive and physical functional capacity of an individual and tend to result in sedentary lifestyle behaviors. A sedentary lifestyle among individuals with MS increases the risk of secondary diseases such as coronary heart disease and obesity, particularly as one ages. The effect of exercise in treating symptoms of MS has been under explored, perhaps due to the fact that exercise was thought to magnify MS-related fatigue and other symptoms. Recent research has challenged this notion, advocating exercise as an effective therapy for the management of MS, as well as maintaining overall fitness and improving quality-of-life measures. While the research shows clear benefits, the barriers to exercise participation among MS patients are significant. Recommendations for various forms of exercise are provided, along with strategies for overcoming barriers to participation.