Multiple Sclerosis and Physical Exercise

17 December 2020

Multiple Sclerosis and Physical Exercise

Multiple Sclerosis and Physical Exercise

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, inflammatory and degenerative disease that affects the central nervous system. MS is characterized by the loss of the myelin that surrounds the axons (demyelination) and the progressive loss of the axons.

Axons are the part of the neuron responsible for conducting electrical impulses (axonal degeneration), leading to neurodegeneration, that is, the gradual loss of the structure and function of neurons, including cell death.

Given the variability where the disease can be located, the clinical manifestations are different and vary from person to person. Among the symptoms are described: motor problems (paresis, spasticity, ataxia, dysmetria, dysarthria, dysphagia, imbalance), sensory (paresthesias, dysesthesias, pain), visual, sphincter dysfunction, cognitive and emotional changes, heat intolerance and fatigue.

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It usually appears between 20 and 40 years of age and has a higher incidence in women than in men. According to the National (Portuguese) Multiple Sclerosis Association (ANEM), it is estimated that there are more than 2 million people with E.M. worldwide and around 8000 in Portugal.

When prescribing physical exercise for people with Multiple Sclerosis, we must take into account the following indications:

- First: understand the patient's clinical condition. The doctor will be able to provide accurate information about the level of disease progression and its specificities and indicate difficulties and physiological limitations, which is essential for proper exercise programming. Contact with the physician must be maintained to exchange information and enable cohesive interventions over time.

- Second: carry out a sports anamnesis, where you can observe your sports activity past and sign your preferences; and clinical anamnesis, in which the main difficulties resulting from the disabilities and the possible adaptations that must be made in carrying out the exercises are verified.

- Lastly: perform a physical assessment to see the patient's weakest points and observe their progress.

Several studies have shown the beneficial effects of physical exercise integrated in the MS patients daily activities. We highlight the increase in muscle strength, which improves balance, coordination and walk; the reduction of fatigue, the most striking symptom and the main reason for incapacity for work and social isolation; the decrease in depression symptoms, by allowing social interaction with other people; promoting physical well-being and improving quality of life.

However, given the nature of the disease, some aspects have to be taken into account with regard to the control of fatigue, spasticity and body temperature.

Therefore, considering the abilities, limitations and personal goals of each individual, it is possible to establish an appropriate physical exercise program and make the most of it.

Look for a specialized professional to help you.

By Susana Marques, Personal Trainer at Academia Bodylab

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Garcia, J., Sousa, L., Gonçalves, A., Rama, L .., & Ferreira, J. P. (2016). Benefit of physical exercise to increase strength in patients with multiple sclerosis: systematic review with meta-analysis. Mine Magazine of Physical Education, 24 (2), 7-16.

Furtado, O., Tavares, M. (2005) Multiple Sclerosis and Physical Exercise. ACTA FISIATR; 12 (3): 100-106

Schiwe D .; Souza, J .; Santos, R .; Menezes, M .; Moraes, J .; Braun, D .; Holler, A .; Comel, J. (2015) PHYSIOTHERAPY IN PATIENTS WITH MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS. Integrated Health Magazine, v.8, n. 15-16.

National Multiple Sclerosis Association (ANEM) (2014):

Pinheiro, J .; Serrano, S .; Pedro, L .; (2012). Multiple Sclerosis and Physical Activity. Sports Medicine Magazine informe. 3. 8–11.