Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients may improve cognition with regular walking, cycling, and yoga, according to research. The study found that increasing exercise and physical activity can help multiple sclerosis patients improve cognition. Cognitive problems are common among multiple sclerosis patients as the report explained, “Cognitive dysfunction in MS is associated with negative health consequences, including depression, reductions in quality of life, and loss of independence, as well as the loss of driving ability.”
Exercise is known to improve brain function and may help increase protection of the central nervous system cells. To date, there have only been three studies that looked at the beneficial effects of exercise on cognitive function in multiple sclerosis.
For the study, researchers looked at three different kinds of exercise and physical activity in people with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis who did not have identified problems with mental processing speed. The exercises consisted of 20 minutes of moderate intensity treadmill walking, moderate intensity cycling, and guided yoga.
Results in the exercising groups were compared to results in the quiet rest group with no exercise.
All three exercises were shown to have positive effects on cognitive function with treadmill walking showing the greatest benefits.
The researchers concluded, “The present results support treadmill walking as the modality of exercise that might exert the largest beneficial effects on executive control in persons with relapsing-remitting MS without impaired cognitive processing speed. This represents an exciting starting point for delineating the appropriate exercise stimulus (i.e., modality and intensity) for inclusion in a subsequent longitudinal exercise training intervention for improving cognitive performance in this population.”
Alternative research has shown that multiple sclerosis patients could improve their energy levels with moderate walking or cycling. The study found that patients only require about three five-minute bouts of activity to start improving their energy levels.
Participants were subjected to five three-minute bouts of activity with two-minute rest in-between. Over the course of the study period, the participants were encouraged to prolong their exercise sessions or take shorter breaks.
The study results were compared to 60 multiple sclerosis patients receiving traditional treatment.
Exercising participants reported improvement in their emotional wellbeing and social function, as well as overall better quality of life.
Professor John Saxton said, “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 people improve symptoms and quality of life. Exercise can also offer social interaction – walking with friends, bike riding with the family – there’s a lot to gain.”
Ed Holloway, head of care and services research at the MS Society, added, “We’re delighted that this study has shown how a well-designed exercise programme can be a cost-effective way to help manage some of the symptoms of MS. 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.”