MS and Exercise: Set Your Own Goals

  • Jennifer: I had a goal going into this summer: To build my strength and have the ability to hold my goddaughter when she is baptized Labor Day weekend. And when my niece Anna Michelle, who shares my middle name, was born last week, I was thankful I spent my summer in physical therapy.

    Dan: While Jennifer worked with her therapist to build arm and upper body strength, I was working to boost my endurance and strengthen my leg muscles to reach the goal I have for this fall: Run a 10K, better known to you and me as 6.2 miles.

    We both have learned regardless of where we are physically – me with Relapsing-Remitting MS preparing to run my longest race ever and Jennifer with Secondary-Progressive MS relying on a wheelchair for mobility because she no longer can walk – regular exercise keeps us healthy and empowers us in our fight against Multiple Sclerosis.

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    This applies to us as well as the more than 400,000 Americans living with MS.

    According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, a 1996 University of Utah research study was the first to demonstrate that exercise benefits people with MS. Citing this research the NMSS reports that, “Those patients who participated in an aerobic exercise program had better cardiovascular fitness, improved strength, better bladder and bowel function, less fatigue and depression, a more positive attitude, and increased participation in social activities.”

    Jennifer: As far as social activities, what could be better than actively participating in the baptism of my goddaughter? While at physical therapy I transferred to a mat table and focused on improving my posture and seated balance, which helped to strengthen my core. Then, transferring back to my wheelchair I simulated holding a baby by cradling a purple stuffed animal that had increasing amounts of weight attached to its torso.

    And my work continues after I leave the physical therapy session. At home Dan helps me as I ride my stationary hand bike, increase my range of motion using a pulley system attached to the wall, and occasionally I even “pump iron” using my one- and two-pound hand weights. 

    Dan: It’s because of Jennifer’s one- and two-pound hand weights that she thinks I am doing a lot when I lift 15-pound dumbbells to work on my core strength and add distance to my workout to improve my running. I keep telling her it really isn’t that much because I regularly see people in the gym curling at least 50-pound weights and runners who effortlessly complete 6.2 miles as their warm-ups.

    The reality is, we both are doing the best we can do with the abilities we have. We try our best to focus on what we’re doing in life and compare it to us as individuals.

    This connects perfectly to the conclusions of the NMSS recommendations that, “An exercise program needs to be appropriate to the capabilities and limitations of the individual, and may need to be adjusted as changes occur in MS symptoms.”

    How do you get your exercise? What are your goals? Have you made any clever adaptations to your equipment or routine? Please tell us about it.


  • We wish you all the best in determining and achieving your individual exercise goals!

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Published On: August 29, 2011