The University of East Anglia has conducted research showing that short periods of moderate exercise, such as walking or cycling, can improve the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS).
The research, funded by the MS society, has been published in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal, and shows that exercise can improve fatigue levels and enhance the quality of life of people suffering with MS.
The EXIMS (pragmatic Exercise Intervention for people with MS) study was led by Prof John Saxton of UEA’s school of Rehabilitation Sciences.
There are currently more than 100,000 people suffering with MS in the UK, all of whom experience the fatigue associated with the condition, according to the MS Society.
Saxton said: “It seems illogical to turn to exercise as a way of managing fatigue, but the results showed that a pragmatic programme based on short bouts of moderate intensity exercise can really help people improve symptoms and quality of life. Exercise can also offer social interaction – walking with friends, bike riding with the family – there’s a lot to gain.”
The study, one of the largest for MS to date, was carried out at Sheffield Hallam University and included 120 participants from Sheffield. 60 of the recruits participated in 12 weeks of both gym-based and self-directed home exercises, as well as cognitive behavioural techniques regarding exercise benefits. The 60 remaining participants received usual NHS care without exercise support.
The exercises were comprised of short bouts of moderate intensity aerobic exercise. This was increased to longer periods of exercise as the study progressed with shorter rests, while staying at moderate intensity levels.
Results showed that the exercises lowered the fatigue of patients on the programme, and that their emotional wellbeing in the long-term improved. It has also become apparent that the study is cost-effective over the ‘usual care’ offered by the NHS.
Ed Holloway, Head of Care and Services Research at the MS Society said: “We’re delighted that this study has shown how a well-designed exercise programme can be a cost-effective way to help manage some of the symptoms of MS. Fatigue in MS is an incredibly common but troubling symptom that can hugely affect an individual’s quality of life. For many people with MS this programme could be a cost effective treatment option.”