The health community has had an evolving view of exercise over the past few decades. For example, in individuals with low back pain, the conventional wisdom of the 1980's was to have plenty of bed rest. The consensus in 2011 is that people with low back pain should move regularly and in a safe, controlled manner.
Even the management of Parkinson disease has changed in the past few years.
"For many years, exercise was not a recommended rehabilitation strategy for persons with a diagnosis of idiopathic Parkinson's disease (PD). Since it was believed that exercise had no measurable effect on PD, or might worsen the underlying pathology, it was to be avoided... A rich vein of bench and translational research now suggest non-pharmacological approaches, such as exercise or physiotherapy, have a far greater effect on the cardinal features of PD than previously believed." Eur J Phys Rehab Med 2009. Jun 45(2):215-29
Exercise seems to be of benefit in any health condition; MS is no exception. A 2004 study published in Neurology found that people with multiple sclerosis who regularly exercised or practiced yoga had significantly less fatigue than those who did not. Another study in 2010 found that yoga improved symptoms of MS and the researchers suggested, that yoga "should be considered in the future as possible complementary treatments."
Admittedly, there are many gray areas in prescribing exercise to people with MS. We are still unclear on how often, which method and what intensity is ideal. The best suggestion seems to be, "Find a way to move your body regularly. Nothing extreme, just move." When that happens, there seems to be general improvement in MS symptoms.
Over the past 9 posts, I've been writing about options to complement the conventional care of MS. There is no magic cure, no simple pill to take and no easy way out of this. But there are options to feel better and reduce symptoms. To close out this series on MS, I will refer to a 2009 paper published in Quality and Primary Care. The title of the article is "Managing multiple sclerosis in primary care: are we forgetting something?" I've quoted extensively here but it is well worth the read.
"...studies suggest that nutrition, sunlight, exercise, stress and social factors can all modulate the rate of progression of MS and the level of disability....If lifestyle approaches do offer potential avenues for therapy, this raises important questions regarding the management of MS in primary care. More widely prescribed conventional medicines have been studied in more detail but are only modestly effective and may have significant side-effects. Are we presently neglecting the most effective approach of combining the non-drug or holistic approach with the best of conventional pharmaceutical therapies, and if so what are the implications of this omission?"