Researchers Recruiting for MS Study: Physical Activity in Persons with MS

  • Have you ever participated in a research study related to multiple sclerosis?  I have as a member of for which I complete periodic surveys related to my disease and treatment.  On occasion I’ve completed other surveys online for various small projects.

    But this week I’m doing something a little different.  Today is Day 3 in a voluntary study of physical activity behavior among people with multiple sclerosis in which I am participating for researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  I learned of the study through a flier distributed by NARCOMS earlier this summer and later contacted one of the primary researchers involved to sign-up.  The study is being conducted by Professors Chung-Yi Chiu and Richard Motl of the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health at the University.  

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    Participating in the research study has been super easy so far.  Basically I’ve agreed to wear an accelerometer for three 7-day periods of time over the course of one year and to fill-out a battery of questionnaires at specified times.  Eligibility for participation in the study include a diagnosis of relapsing-remitting MS, ability to walk with or without a cane, and age between 18-64 years.  For my contribution to the research project, I will receive up to $30 compensation in the form of gift cards.  (A $10 Starbucks card was included with the study materials for this first 7-day period.)

    The purpose of the study (as I understand it) is to examine social cognitive determinants of physical activity in persons with multiple sclerosis.  Many of us living with MS become less active, although we may know that maintaining a certain level of physical activity is good for us.  It not only improves our physical function and contributes to better health, but benefits our overall well-being and health-related quality of life.  

    What are some of the factors that influence physical activity?  

    According to the social cognitive theory (SCT), a theory of social learning, key determinants of physical activity include social/environmental supports, self-efficacy, outcome expectations, and self-regulation.  SCT helps to explain how people acquire and maintain certain behavioral patterns.  SCT argues that individuals who believe they can be physically active (i.e., higher self-efficacy) will expect favorable results from physical activity (i.e., outcome expectations) and will be more likely to implement the self-regulatory behaviors essential to adopting and maintaining an active lifestyle.

    I wanted to learn more about social cognitive determinants and previous work of the researchers involved in this particular study, so I conducted a quick search of published articles at NIH’s  I had planned to list the studies here, but found at least 170 articles related to MS that Drs. Motl and Chiu had contributed to over the past 10 years, too many to list.

    I did learn that in prior studies related to social cognitive determinants of physical activity, researchers found that self-efficacy, functional limitations, and goal setting had statistically significant direct effects on physical activity in persons with MS and may represent modifiable targets for changing physical activity behavior in persons with RRMS (Suh, 2011, 2014; Dlugnomski, 2011).  These papers and a few others that are related to the current study at the University of Illinois are listed at the end of this article.

  • For more information about the current study I’m participating in, and to ask about how you can contribute, please contact Dr. Chung-Yi Chiu by telephone: (844) 800-9972 or email: 

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    It would be great if we could help Dr. Chiu recruit a large number of MS patients to participate.



    Related Research:

    Dlugonski D, Pilutti LA, Sandroff BM, Suh Y, Balantrapu S, Motl RW. Steps per day among persons with multiple sclerosis: variation by demographic, clinical, and device characteristics. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2013 Aug;94(8):1534-9. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2012.12.014. Epub 2013 Feb 15.

    Dlugonski D, Wójcicki TR, McAuley E, Motl RW. Social cognitive correlates of physical activity in inactive adults with multiple sclerosis. Int J Rehabil Res. 2011 Jun;34(2):115-20. doi: 10.1097/MRR.0b013e328342ddc0.

    Motl RW. Lifestyle physical activity in persons with multiple sclerosis: the new kid on the MS block. Mult Scler. 2014 Mar 6;20(8):1025-1029. [Epub ahead of print] Review.

    Suh Y, Joshi I, Olsen C, Motl RW. Social Cognitive Predictors of Physical Activity in Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis. Int J Behav Med. 2014 Jan 10. [Epub ahead of print]

    Suh Y, Weikert M, Dlugonski D, Balantrapu S, Motl RW. Social cognitive variables as correlates of physical activity in persons with multiple sclerosis: findings from a longitudinal, observational study. Behav Med. 2011 Jul;37(3):87-94. doi: 10.1080/08964289.2011.603768.

    Suh Y, Weikert M, Dlugonski D, Sandroff B, Motl RW. Social cognitive correlates of physical activity: findings from a cross-sectional study of adults with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. J Phys Act Health. 2011 Jul;8(5):626-35.

    Lisa Emrich is author of the blog Brass and Ivory: Life with MS and RA and founder of the Carnival of MS Bloggers.

Published On: August 03, 2014