Getting fit and keeping fit helps the body and mind to stay as healthy as possible. Regular exercise is a good idea for anyone, but for people with ms, there are even more specific benefits.

Research has suggested that exercise can improve the overall health of people with milder MS and help people with more severe MS to stay as mobile and active as possible.

Exercise can also help some people manage their MS symptoms, such as fatigue, muscle stiffness, balance difficulties, anxiety, depression, bladder and bowel problems and decrease the risk of heart disease.

Different forms of exercise, including yoga, can help to combat the symptoms of fatigue. A recent study examined the fatigue levels of people living with MS; one group signed on for a yoga class geared to the needs of people with MS, a second group took a stationary-bicycling class, and a third group had no specific program given to them. At the end of the 6-month study, both the yoga and stationary bike participants reported improvement in their fatigue levels, while the third group, who had no specific exercise program, saw no improvement in their MS fatigue symptoms.

Stronger bones
Weight-bearing exercise is a good way to strengthen bones and protect against osteoporosis, a bone-thinning disease. People
with MS are at particular risk for osteoporosis due to a combination of factors. For one, levels of Vitamin D - the nutrient that works with calcium to protect bone health — are typically low among people living with MS. Certain medications (such as corticosteroids) that are effective in the treatment of MS can also lead to lower calcium levels. These lower levels of vitamin D and calcium make it harder for your body to retain bone density or strength. At the same time, people with
multiple sclerosis often face mobility issues that make them more prone to falling, which can lead to broken bones.

The good news is you can combat these vitamin and mineral deficiencies and further strengthen your bones with exercise. Weightbearing exercises – including running, aerobics, dancing, and stair climbing - help you build and maintain bone density that will protect your bones, even if you stumble and fall.

Weight management
The decrease in mobility caused by multiple sclerosis, combined with the side effects of common MS medications (such as steroid drugs used to treat flare-ups), can lead to weight gain, which can contribute to a further decrease in your ability to get around. Exercise can slow or stop this cycle.

Heart health
MS may increase the risk of heart problems due to its effect on involuntary bodily processes such as breathing, digestion, and
heart rhythm. Staying physically active has long been promoted as a healthy way to decrease risks for heart disease. Even mild or moderate activity can help minimize your risk of cardiovascular problems down the line. For many people, MS means a change in physical activity and mobility, but it does not mean that life comes to a standstill. If you are unable to continue activities that you used to enjoy, talk to your doctor about new ways to stay active, or talk to a physical therapist about ways to make your old favourite activities more accessible.