ONTARIO, Dec 16 — New Canadian research has found that individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) who are struggling to increase their level of physical activity could still improve their symptoms by adding more everyday activities into their daily routine.

Carried out by researchers at the University of Alberta, the new small-scale study looked at 40 participants taking part in a 15-week program which asked them to work with coaches to try to break up prolonged periods of sedentary time with everyday activities, such as walking and housework, and to use Fitbits to record their activity levels.

The findings showed that at the end of the 15 weeks, the participants experienced improvements in most of their MS symptoms, including a reduction in their level of fatigue. Their usual walking speed and walking endurance also improved.

Being physically active is important for patients with MS, as it can help to manage and improve symptoms of the condition. However, it is also these same symptoms, including problems with mobility, fatigue and depression, which can make it difficult to keep active, and people with MS sit twice as much and are less active than their peers because of their fatigue and unpredictable flare-ups and relapses.

The researchers say that although further studies are needed, these first results are encouraging news for MS sufferers, who can struggle to do “formal exercise” such as gym workouts.

“Sometimes there’s a belief that if exercise isn’t done as a formal workout, it doesn’t count, but sitting less and moving more, taking more steps or standing more is much more feasible as an easier place to start,” said researcher Patricia Manns.

“The messaging works because it’s an easier psychological entry into these activity guidelines. It invites them to be active at their own pace.”

Researcher Golnoush Mehrabani also added that as MS generally affects a younger age group, between the ages of 20 and 49, they “tend to compare themselves to their peer group and feel bad about not being as active,” an idea which was backed up by participants themselves in the current study.

“My view of what it means to be active is completely different than it was before,” one patient told the researchers. “Before, being active meant going for a swim or going for a long walk, going to the gym, going for a workout, doing yoga. I guess I wouldn’t have thought going to the mailbox was being physically active.”

The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that adults aged 18 to 64 years with multiple sclerosis and a mild to moderate level of disability need at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity, two times per week, and strength training exercises, two times per week. Manns says that upping everyday activity could help MS patients meet these guidelines.

“People live with MS for many years, and using an approach like this may play an important part in helping them to be more active and manage disease symptoms.” — AFP-Relaxnews