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Pilates can help with mobility and walking in MS

  • Physical activity and exercise is an important component for people to manage their MS and improve quality of life.
  • A randomised clinical trial has tested whether pilates, that focuses on controlled movements and targets core muscles, is beneficial for people with MS.
  • Pilates improved walking distance and functional mobility in people with MS showing that Pilates is a safe and effective form of exercise for people with MS.

It is already known that physical activity and exercise are important for people with MS to manage their disease and improve their quality of life, however, there is no clear evidence as yet that one particular form of exercise is better than another or exactly how much exercise is enough.

Pilates, an exercise regime invented by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s, is known to strengthen and tone muscles, improve core strength, increase flexibility, help with balance and improve a person’s range of motion. Pilates uses controlled whole body movements, and sometimes includes the use of specialised equipment, to work major muscle groups of the body. Now, a clinical trial has examined whether Pilates might be a beneficial form of exercise for people with MS.

The clinical trial tested whether people with MS who attended a Pilates class twice a week over three months made improvements in walking and mobility. Published in the International Journal of MS Care, 30 people with MS took part in the study and either attended Pilates classes and received therapeutic massage or received the massage therapy alone. The researchers then tested whether pilates made a difference to a variety of outcomes including walking performance, functional ability, balance, flexibility, body composition, core endurance and quadriceps (thigh) muscle strength.

The people with MS who attended the Pilates classes had a 15% improvement in the distance that they could walk and also increased their functional mobility. They improved their ability to perform the “timed up and go” test. In this test, participants stand from a seated position, walk three metres, turn around and sit back down. The researchers suggest that these physical improvements are likely to be due to the Pilates exercises tested, which focus on improving gait and maintaining alignment. Other outcomes, such as balance, flexibility, muscle strength and body composition were not improved.

Often, people with MS are unsure as to whether particular types of exercise are safe to do. This clinical trial included people with all types of MS, at different levels of severity, and people who had had relapses within the last 30 days as well as people whose disease was more stable. While the functional changes were small, they could make an important difference for people with MS in their daily life.

This type of research is important to show that Pilates is a safe and effective form of exercise for people with MS. Other types of exercise have also been shown to be helpful for people with MS. Finding a type of exercise that is enjoyable and something they can stick with is a really important factor to keep everyone, not just people with MS, engaged in physical activity. This research adds Pilates to the list of possibilities to help people with MS maintain overall health and contribute to managing the symptoms of MS.

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Pilates can help with mobility and walking in MS