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Many years ago people suffering with MS were advised not to exercise but to stay rested, but modern thnking is the right type of exercise can help to manage symptoms as well as make the sufferer feel better both mentally and physically.

Benefits of exercise

We all know that taking regular exercise makes you feel better and this is no different for people with MS, the key is to choose something that you enjoy ,that you can achieve and that won't aggrevate your symptoms. 


  • If your MS is mild, you may find that you can still do everything you were able to pre diagnosis but you may have to make some adjustments for fatigue etc
  • Pilates/yoga types of exercise can help with mobility, flexibility and balance issues & can be beneficial to most sufferers
  • Group exercise can help with support and making friends
  • Keeping strong is important to combat muscle weakness and mobility problems
  • Regular exercise can help you manage your weight  especially when combined with a healthy, well-balanced diet

But finding the right exercises is so important, it needs to be fun, achievable and functional.

Relapses and exercising

Exercise will not make your MS worse or cause relapses, it is a great self management tool, and can leave you feeling more confident too..

Listen to your body all the time, for instance you should not try to exercise if you are experiencing a relapse, wait until the symptoms have levelled out and if in doubt speak to a health professional.

Types of exercise 

MS is different in everyone, so there is no prescribed "perfect" exercise for sufferers, as already mentioned your body is a perfect indicator of what is right for you!

Some forms of exercise might include:

  • Strengthening exercises, using weights, bands, your own body weight and adaptations if necessary (chairs for support), as keeping strong is vital.
  • Aerobic exercises (such as cycling, running or rowing), choose what you feel comfortable doing taking in to account balance, mobility etc
  • Stretching is very beneficial for tight muscles
  • Range-of-motion through a joint exercises, such as movement for wrists, knees, hips etc help with keeping things mobile
  • Passive stretching (involves a physiotherapist or carer helping to move your arms or legs to create a stretch and move the joints).
  • Posture exercises including core strengthening exercises, these will help keep your feet, knees, pelvis, shoulders and head properly aligned, which are often affected by changes in gait etc, this will help to reduce strain on the muscles and bones in the body.

There are so many different types of exercise out there to suit all abilities, so don't be disheartened if it takes you some time to find something that you enjoy.

Remember exercise doesn't always have to mean playing a sport, it can mean walking, even doing the houseowrk as long as it is using your body more than usual.

Exercising and MS symptoms


Exercising can help your mood, improve strength, tone and balnce and all of these can help with fatigue issues.

Balance and walking

Exercises to improve your balance can have a "knock on" effect in helping improve other MS symptoms, improving your core strength can give you more strength through your lower body which will improve walking.

Muscle spasms or stiffness

Yoga, pilates, and physiotherapy exercises can all help alleviate muscle stiffness, most fitness instructors are able to adapt exercises to suit all abilities, and yoga can even be practised in a seated position, or holding a chair if balance is a problem.

T'ai chi has also been found to help with muscle stiffness and improve the genral well being of sufferers.

Bladder and bowel

If you suffer from baldder issues, try pelvic floor exercises, a continence advisor, MS nurse, phsiotherapist or even a "regular" fitness instructor will be able to give you advice on how these should be performed.

Bowel problems are less common, but can be awkward and distressing, but again research has shown that keeping active improves bowel function.

Low mood, anxiety or depression

When you exercise endorphins are released which help lift your mood, so if you are feeling down, anxious or depressed exercise can help

Any type of exercise will help but both T'ai chi and aerobics have been proven to be particularly beneficial in lifting mood. Plus group exercise is a great way to meet new people

Tips on starting exercise

Always start slowly with any exercise programme and if in doubt speak to your GP as they may refer to you to a physiotherapist to give you more advice.

  • Always listen to your body, and build up slowly, if you can't do something don't stress about it just accept your limitations and don't push yourself too far.
  • If you have never exercised before try attending a session lead by a fully qualified instructor that understands your condition, this way you will learn that you need to warm up and cool down properly, you will then be able to emulate some of the workout at home, always ensure you stretch to avoid tight muslcles becoming tighter..

MS and heat

Some people with MS suffer from heat sensitivity and consequently need to monitor this during exercise..

If you are one of these people here are some things you nned to be aware of:

  • Keep away from overly hot swimming pools.
  • Keep breaking during your exercise session for a rest.
  • Cold drinks, wearing a ‘cooling vest’ and taking a cool bath before exercising could help your exercise session last longer..
  • Make sure the environment you exercise in is at the right temperature for you, sir conditioning and fans can help. Remeber that MS can cause changes to the way you experience temperature, so be very careful if you apply cooling aids direct to your skin. As always if you are unsure check with a medical professional..


A physiotherapist is a great resource for advising which exercies will specifically help your condition.

If you are claiming Disability Living Allowance or PIP many sports centres offer reduced rates for people on benefits.

Check out your local area, as your doctor may  prescribe exercise as well as medicines and could arrange for you to exercise for free at a local fitness centre.

There are many local initiatives called Inclusive Fitness Initiatives (IFI) that could help you to access fitness.