Despite muscle weakness being common, the role of progressive resistance exercise (PRE) for people with MS remains unclear. PRE requires an individual lifting relatively high weights a small number of times; increasing the load as muscle strength develops. Some health professionals believe that people with MS should not participate in strenuous activity such as that required in PRE because the increased body heat associated with exercising might affect nerve conduction and so make stiffness, muscle spasms and sensory disturbances worse. It is also thought that strenuous activity might increase fatigue making activities of daily living more difficult. Others have argued that muscle weakness is a major contributing factor for disability in people with MS and that PRE might be able to improve functional activity for these people. This study is the first rigorously controlled study to examine the effects of PRE on people with MS with mild to moderate walking difficulties.
Professor Dodd has undertaken a study with people with MS who were enrolled in one of two groups: experimental and control. The experimental group completed a 2 x 45 minute sessions per week PRE program focused on strengthening the legs for 10 weeks. The control group completed a 1-hour per week educational program for 10 weeks. To find out if the exercise group had changed compared to the other group we measured:
(1) muscle performance including strength, endurance, stiffness and spasms,
(2) walking speed and endurance,
(3) feelings of fatigue and,
(4) quality of life.
All measurements were taken immediately before beginning, after 10 weeks, and finally another measurement was taken 12 weeks after the program to find out if any benefits had been sustained. A total of 35 people completed the exercise program, and 36 completed the educational program.
The results showed that the exercise program was safe under the supervision of an experienced exercise trainer. Very few people experienced problems during the program, with most people only reporting short term muscle soreness like that experienced by anyone beginning a weights training program. The program successfully increased leg muscle strength and endurance, with no increase in muscle stiffness or other symptoms such as sensory problems. It also improved feelings of fatigue, and there was a tendency for some people to experience less muscle spasm.
Updated: 06 January, 2007