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Strength training

and m ul tip l e scl ero sis

The benefits of strength training
Strength (or resistance) training is just one com ponent ofa balanced exercise routine, which also includes f itness (aerobic) activity, balance and f lexibility exercises. Strength training exercise increases m uscle m ass by m aking the m uscles work harder than they' re used to. I t usually involves weights or som e other f orm ofresistance designed to im prove a person s strength. I n m ultiple sclerosis (M S), loss ofm yelin (which helps insulate the nerves) can cause m essages f rom the brain, through the spinal cord and to the m uscles to be slowed or blocked. This can result in m uscle weakness. This weakness can be tem porary, such as during an exacerbation, af ter prolonged walking or f rom an increase in body tem perature. I t can also be m ore perm anent. A period ofinactivity can also result in what is called secondary weakness, adding to the prim ary weakness caused by M S. Studies have dem onstrated that people with M S can prevent or reverse secondary weakness (due to disuse), im prove their quality oflif e, and slow down progression ofdisability by engaging in strength training activities. Strengthening weak m uscle groups can im prove balance and f itness, m ake everyday activities easier (e.g. showering, dressing, shopping and cooking), and im prove general m obility (walking with or without an aid or wheelchair m obility). Strength training has also been shown to help in the m anagem ent ofback pain, arthritis, heart disease, osteoporosis, depression, balance disorders and sleep disturbances. Specif ically, research has shown that strength training can: im prove m uscle strength im prove m uscle coordination and ef f iciency im prove f unctional ability im prove energy levels enhance m ood and f eelings ofwellbeing

Is strength training exercise safe for peop l e w ith MS?

Exercise does not trigger an M S relapse (exacerbation) or adversely af f ect the disease process. A properly designed strength training program will not cause prolonged f atigue or worsen M S sym ptom s. Som e people with M S m ay experience m uscle soreness initially, but this usually settles af ter a day or two. O ther people m ay experience a tem porary worsening ofsensory sym ptom s ifthey have an increase in body tem perature during exercise. This tem porary worsening ofsym ptom s generally subsides within an hour f ollowing the end ofthe exercise session. P eople with unstable blood pressure or heart disease should obtain m edical clearance f rom their doctor and have a strength training program designed by a suitably trained health prof essional. I fexperiencing a relapse (exacerbation) ofM S, or if you are f eeling unwell, avoid strenuous physical activity until your health is m ore stable.

INFORMATION FOR PEOPLE LIVING WITH MS | Updated August 2011 | Multiple Sclerosis Limited 2011

Strength training and m ul tipl e scl erosis continued

Getting started w ith a strength training exercise pro gram

Physicalassessm ent. I t is pref erable to have a physical assessm ent com pleted by a physiotherapist or trained f itness instructor prior to starting an exercise program . I fyou are experiencing dif f iculties with m obility, vision, trem or, balance and/or f atigue, it is m ore appropriate to consult with a physiotherapist. Prescription. For strength training to be m ost ef f ective, you need a program that is tailored to your individual needs and addresses any f unctional lim itations that you m ay have. I deally, a program will consist ofexercises involving a reasonable level ofresistance and that are perf orm ed with enough repetitions to enable your m uscles to adapt. Review . H ave your program reviewed periodically by a qualif ied health prof essional if your level ofability changes so that the program can be adapted to suit your specif ic needs. For exam ple, weights m ay need to be increased as you becom e stronger, or decreased af ter an exacerbation involving prolonged rest or f ollowing a signif icant change in M S sym ptom s. A trained f itness instructor can also review your program on a m ore regular basis and m odif y it accordingly.

For inform ation abo ut MS and MS Austral ia AC T/NSW/VIC services:

MS C o nnect: 1800 042 138 Em ail: m sconnect@ m saustralia.org.au Web : w w w . m saustral ia. o rg. au/actnsw vic

D iscl aim er: I nf ormation contained in this f act sheet, prepared by Multiple Sclerosis Limited, is intended to provide usef ul and accurate inf ormation of a general nature f or the reader but is not intended to be a substitute f or legal or medical advice. Multiple Sclerosis Limited is not recommending medical or legal advice and readers must seek their ow n medical or legal advice as may be appropriate. P rinting and photocopying this publication in its original f orm is permitted f or educational purposes only. R eproduction in any other f orm w ithout w ritten permission is prohibited.

INFORMATION FOR PEOPLE LIVING WITH MS | Updated August 2011 | Multiple Sclerosis Limited 2011