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Lifting Weights Fights MS Too

A conventional weight-traning program can lead to an improved quality of life for multiple sclerosis (MS) patients, according to a new study. After eight weeks of supervised resistance training on common gym equipment, eight MS patients had stronger muscles, could walk better and reported less overall fatigue and disability.

Because MS causes muscle weakness and fatigue that contributes to a declining cycle of fitness, loss of mobility and decreased quality of life, researchers devised an exercise program that emphasizes muscle strength. The regimen of the study included no more than 30 minutes of supervised weight training twice a week for eight weeks, focusing on the legs, abdomen and lower back. Each patient's initial weight load was determined from a pre-study strength test. Once patients could do 15 reps consistently, they progressed to higher weight resistance.

Another problem MS patients also can have in relation to working out: A painfully heightened sensitivity to heat. Although previous studies on the effects of aerobic exercise on MS patients showed promise, many doctors have been hesitant to prescribe exercise regimens as treatment, thinking it could do more harm than good. Strength training, however, does not increase body temperature like aerobic exercise does, and it focuses on muscle mass, one of the primary targets of MS.

That's why I often refer to a exercise as a drug. Most of the patients I see have a serious exercise debt. If you want to optimize your health, you'll need to do about 90 minutes of cardiovascular exercise every day. This amount of exercise is only required in the treatment phase though and you'll be able to cut back to 45 minutes three times a week once you get healthier.

In addition to ramping up your exercise program, just a quick reminder, if you suffer from MS (or know someone who does) please have your vitamin D blood levels checked immediately! It is important to receive adequate amounts of vitamin D, as it keeps your cell growth and activity in check.

Science Blog January 21, 2005

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