Multiple sclerosis and exercise: What to do?

What is Multiple Sclerosis? 

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease in which the immune system affects the myelin sheath that covers our nerve fibres in our brain and spinal cord. This interferes with messages between the brain and other parts of the body. The severity and duration of the symptoms of this disease can change depending on the type of MS a person may have. 

Examples of these symptoms are as follows: 

  • Pain 
  • Mood disturbance 
  • Fatigue 
  • Vision loss 
  • Muscle spasms 
  • Decrease balance 
  • Decrease strength 
  • Impaired coordination 
  • Decreased cognitive function 

MS can occur at any age, however the most common age for MS to develop is between 20-40 years old. The risk factors which may enhance this are: 

  • Age 
  • Genes
  • Sex
  • Family history 
  • Smoking 
  • Obesity 
  • Various viruses 
  • Stress 

I want to improve my MS symptoms, what should I do? 

From your early diagnosis of MS, continuing to be mobile and having a good exercise tolerance are both very important. Due to the unpredictability and fluctuation of the disease, each exercise programme should be individualised and monitored regularly. 

Three of the most important components of rehabilitation are balance, strength and flexibility. At initial diagnosis you might find that these components are not hugely affected. However, as the disease progresses, you may find these are the most affected. During a relapse / progression, we tend to not be as ambulant, therefore this can affect our muscle mass, strength and physical function. We need to ensure that these physical components are trained as best as possible to heighten an individual’s capacity to perform activities of daily living such as walking and squatting.  

Balance training and strength training go really well together. You often find that the exercises for each are similar as decreased muscle strength can affect balance and vice versa.  

Flexibility and stretching is crucial to prevent our muscles from decreasing in range of motion. This may occur from a combination of inactivity, spasticity or weakness. It is important to maintain our range of motion to help improve our function. Our range of motion can also be maintained through strength training.  

What exercises can help if you have MS? 

It is recommended that aerobic and strengthening exercises are completed 2-3 times per week to have the best possible opportunity to improve fitness. These exercises might be too easy or too difficult for yourself so it’s important to remember that these can be altered to suit your needs. 

  • This exercise is called a bird dog. This is great for core strengthening as well as hip and glute strength. All will benefit your balance and mobility. 

Strength Training for MS Symptoms: Top 10 Exercises to Try

3 sets of 8 reps. 

  • Sit to stand

This exercise is ideal to try and maintain your independence for going about your activities of daily living. It helps with improving your ability to get up and down from a chair. 

Exercises you should do every day - Scouting magazine

3 sets of 10 reps 

  • Tandem stance balancing

This exercise focuses on static balance by decreasing your base of support. This helps improve balance therefore aiming to make walking, with a bigger base of support, easier, with decreased chance of falls. 

Balance & Ambulation

  • Stretching the gastrocnemius 

This exercise is especially important if you have spasticity symptoms. If the gastrocnemius has increased tone, this can affect mobility, balance and potentially reduce activities of daily living. 

  • Walking 

Walking is a great way to help maintain mobility and to help increase balance and strength within the lower limbs. It also helps maintain and improve our cardiovascular fitness which can further help with clearing sticky secretions. 

If you have been diagnosed with MS either recently or a while ago, please get in touch with our team to find out how we can help you! 


Weikert M, Dlugonski D, Balantrapu S, Motl RW. Most Common Types of Physical Activity Self-Selected by People with Multiple Sclerosis. Int J MS Care. 2011 Jun;13(1):16–20. 

White, L., and Dressendorfer, R. (2004) Exercise and multiple sclerosis. Sports medicine. 34(15) PP: 1077-1100. 

Learnmonth, Y., and Motl, R. (2021) Exercise Training for Multiple Sclerosis: A Narrative Review of History, Benefits, Safety, Guidelines, and Promotion. International journal of environmental researcj and public health. 18(24) P, 13245.

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