I've been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). Is it okay to exercise?

Answers from Douglas M. Peterson, M.D.

Common symptoms of MS, such as fatigue, weakness and poor coordination, may make the prospect of exercise daunting if you have MS. However, studies show that the benefits of exercise far outweigh the challenges for people with MS — as long as you remember not to overdo it and that moderation is essential.

If you have MS, check with your doctor before starting a routine. For someone with MS, too aggressive exercise can bring on severe fatigue and injury and exacerbate symptoms. Though regular aerobic exercise has been proved to increase strength and balance, improve bowel and bladder control, and decrease spasticity related to MS, it can backfire if you don't take a gentler approach.

You may experience numbness, tingling or blurred vision when you start to exercise. This is due to a rise in core body temperature resulting from exertion. Typically, symptoms will ease as your body cools down. You can manage your body temperature while you exercise with a cooling collar or other device.

A physical therapist or fitness instructor who's familiar with MS can be very helpful with modifying a routine that fits your capabilities and addresses issues, such as body temperature, poor balance, fatigue and spasticity. He or she can also help monitor your pulse and breathing rate to help you pace yourself and avoid overexertion. Pool exercise, such as water aerobics, may also help with balance and therefore, reduce your risk of falls.

Anyone with MS can modify an exercise routine to meet his or her needs. Just remember to work within your range of ability and not to overdo it.

May 06, 2014 See more Expert Answers