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Be proactive about staying active

Be proactive about staying active

For many people, exercise is a huge part of a happy and healthy lifestyle. Yet there’s a big misconception when it comes to having multiple sclerosis (MS) and being active. Mandy Rohrig, from Can Do Multiple Sclerosis—an organization that delivers health and wellness education programs to help families living with MS thrive—is very familiar with this. She says, “I think there are a lot of people who have multiple sclerosis and think exercising has to be hard, it has to be painful, it has to be kind of a drag. And that’s not true!” Having MS doesn’t mean you can’t be active, and it doesn’t have to be difficult.

The fact is, there are tons of awesome health benefits from breaking a sweat—such as managing your MS symptoms. Your ability to walk, your overall mood, cognition, bone density, and immune function can all benefit in some way from physical activity.

Still, your mind may be racing with questions such as: “How can I possibly exercise with MS?” “What exercises are right for me?” “How do I know I can exercise?” There are plenty of ways to get your blood pumping. And the best part? Many exercises are adaptable. Let’s explore the 4 groups of exercises:

1. Flexibility
All forms of stretching, including yoga, fall under this category. You can stretch specific muscles, which is especially good for folks who experience spasticity. Regular yoga too difficult? Chair yoga is a great alternative!

2. Strength training
This typically includes weights—anything from free weights to machine weights to exercise sweat bands. Even your own body resistance can be used in strength training.

3. Aerobic training
This is great for the heart and lungs! Activities can include riding a stationary bike, walking, swimming, and dancing.

4. Balance training
There are a lot of exercises that focus on standing balance, sitting balance, and walking balance. Stretching and chair exercises are all great ways to improve balance.

Sports and Outdoor Activities
Sports such as golf, cycling, and swimming are highly adaptable to people with MS. Disabled Sports USA offers a lot of group activities and sports clubs for individuals with disabilities. You can check them out at Disabled Sports USA.

Before jumping in, it’s important to consult your doctor about any physical activities. It may also be a good idea to meet with a physical therapist, especially one who’s familiar with MS. That way, you can figure out what types of exercises are right for you and your body.

Setting goals
Setting goals is another important piece when you start exercising. Goals can range from something simple such as improving your overall wellness, to something more specific such as a functional task (eg, getting in and out of the car or in and out of a chair). No matter what your goal is, having something to work on and work toward can be extremely motivating!

Our friends at Can Do Multiple Sclerosis define goals using the acronym S.M.A.R.T. This stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. When it comes to setting goals, you should be specific about what you want to accomplish. Make sure they’re attainable—it can be discouraging to work toward a goal that is too difficult or unrealistic. Lastly, choose a goal that can be completed in an appropriate amount of time. Setting goals that are too far in the future may be hard to stick with.

Make it fun!
Of course, you don’t want to exercise if you’re not having fun along the way. That’s why you should try to approach all activity or exercise with a “can do” attitude! It’s a mentality and a message that our friends at Can Do MS are the most passionate about spreading. MS can’t hold you back from living an active, healthy lifestyle and participating in your favorite sports. Remember, you can still do the same things—just a little differently. So, have fun, and be healthy!

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