Sunday November 19th 2017

Exercise can alleviate fatigue caused by multiple sclerosis, researchers say

Men and women cycling on exercise bikesMultiple sclerosis sufferers can reduce the fatigue that accompanies their condition by undertaking short bursts of moderately intense exercise, such as walking or cycling, according to new research.

Participating in such activities even for a few minutes boosted their quality of life and reduced their extreme tiredness, patients reported in a trial of 120 people with MS living in Sheffield.

“It seems illogical to turn to exercise as a way of managing fatigue but the results showed that a pragmatic programme based on short bouts of moderate intensity exercise can really help improve symptoms and quality of life”, said Professor John Saxton, who led the research while at Sheffield Hallam University but who is now at the University of East Anglia.

For 12 weeks, 60 of the 120 participants undertook five bursts of three minutes of exercises, either in a gym or at home, with two-minutes rests in between. As the trial progressed, they were encouraged to increase the busts to four minutes or take shorter rest breaks. The other 60 received standard NHS care for their condition, which did not include exercise.

Those who had done the physical activity had “significantly lower” levels of fatigue than those who had not. They also reported “long-term improvements in emotional wellbeing, social function and overall quality of life”, which lasted for up to nine months, according to the MS Society, which funded the study. The exercise regime was also more cost-effective than normal NHS care.

The charity believes exercise could help the UK’s 100,000 or so MS patients.

“Fatigue in MS is an incredibly common but troubling symptom that can hugely affect an individual’s quality of life. For many people with MS this programme could be a cost-effective treatment option”, said Ed Holloway, its head of care and services research.

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