ESSA releases position statement on the benefits of exercise for people with multiple sclerosis

26 August 2021

Today Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) is proud to announce the launch of our latest position statement on exercise for people with mild to moderate multiple sclerosis (MS), published on 24th August 2021 in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport (JSAMS).

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, neurodegenerative disease of the central nervous system, interfering with nerve impulses throughout the body that leads to increasing disability in most people. It affects 26,000 Australians, of which three quarters are women, and an estimated 2.3 million individuals world-wide.

MS is characterised by variable physical and mental symptoms, in particular, muscle weakness, walking impairments, balance problems, fatigue, cognitive impairment, depression, and lower cardiorespiratory fitness.

People with MS are substantially less physically active than the general population, which in turn increases the risk of many lifestyle-mediated chronic diseases including coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

This latest ESSA position statement, developed by a group of Australian researchers and clinician, outlines supportive evidence that exercise interventions can benefit people with MS, not only at the impairment level, but also at functional and quality of life levels.

“This position statement will provide practitioners with evidence-based recommendations for the prescription of safe, effective exercise interventions for adults with MS with mild to moderate disability,” explains Dr Phu Hoang, Research Fellow at Neuroscience Research Australia in Sydney and the lead author on this position statement. Dr Phu Hoang is also a senior physiotherapist/MS Consultant at Multiple Sclerosis Limited.

For people with MS, regular physical activity has been shown to help manage symptoms, restore function, optimise quality of life, promote wellness, and boost participation in activities of daily living. Regular exercise also improves fatigue, one of the most common and debilitating symptoms in MS that significantly impacts the daily living in people with the disease.

“To achieve optimal benefits from exercise, people with MS who have mild to moderate disability need to engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise twice per week and strengthening exercises of major muscles affected by MS twice per week. Additional balance-training exercises are recommended for those people with MS with poor balance and have a history of frequent falls,” adds Dr Hoang.

It’s important to note that exercise programs should be individualised, prescribed and delivered by an appropriately qualified exercise professional, such as an Accredited Exercise Physiologist, who will be able to recognise and accommodate exercise-associated complications for those living with MS such as fatigue and heat sensitivity when undertaking exercise prescription.

Click here to access the article “Exercise and Sports Science Australia (ESSA) position statement on exercise for people with mild to moderate multiple sclerosis”.

To find an Accredited Exercise Physiologist near you, visit ESSA’s online directory.

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