There is evidence that physical activity or exercise can help manage some of the symptoms of MS such as fatigue, depression and problems with mobility. Also, research has shown that many people with MS want to engage in exercise, but few get the recommended amount.
Dr Learmonth from Murdoch University, WA, aims to engage with people in the MS community to identify how people with MS can participate in exercise programs, what their needs are in relation to the provision of exercise programs and the best ways to deliver such programs. In particular, the project will focus on people living in non-metropolitan areas.
Dr Learmonth will conduct surveys and focus groups with people with MS, people that have a close connection to someone with MS (i.e. a family member), healthcare professionals and people involved in determining overall MS care and service programs.
She will also ask people to comment on what physical activity and exercise services are important to research in the future. This research will guide future research and clinical practice to improve the services delivered to the MS community. It is anticipated that the data collected will produce new information to support the development and testing of a program aimed at delivering physical activity and exercise services to persons with MS living in non-metropolitan areas of Australia.
This study has been received by the MS community and collaborators very well. With the help of MS Research Australia, MS WA, MS Australia and MS Nurses Australasia, Dr Learmonth and her team have recruited 64 participants, including people living with MS, carers, healthcare providers and managers/supervisors in MS care. 41 of the participants were from WA, indicating that there was interest in participation from other Australian states.
Dr Learmonth has completed the interviews with the MS community and the results have been analysed. The following areas were suggested by participants as facilitators of exercise – adequate exercise facilities, and person (i.e., coach) knowledge on MS and exercise, motivation towards exercise, and overall community acknowledgement of exercise promotion. Dr Learmonth found that there are slight differences in the exercise needs of people living in inner regional areas (i.e. more populated areas) as opposed to outer regional areas. For example, people in remote areas preferred their exercise services to be telehealth-based while people in regional areas were more receptive to accessing community facilities and the idea of group exercise.
Dr Learmonth is currently in discussion with researchers in Europe and the USA to use the results from this study to gather data from the MS community (via questionnaire) in Australia and combine results from various countries. This will help in the understanding of physical activity service delivery in different regions and states and help develop new theories of service delivery related to MS care across Australia.
Dr Learmonth has presented this work at national and international conferences, has published a manuscript in a scientific journal, and has submitted another manuscript to a scientific journal.
Updated: 11 June 2020
Updated: 20 January, 2017