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MS-UK exercise masterclasses

Posted on: March 31 2021

Every month, our online masterclasses offer insight to different topics and special areas of interest that have been suggested by participants who attend our exercise classes. The masterclasses complement our weekly online exercise classes which take place every Tuesday and Thursday from 11am. The aim of each masterclass is to focus on a chosen topic area that people have identified as needing to know more about. 

The masterclasses are led by Alan Pearson, our level four exercise specialist who has nearly a decade of experience providing exercise prescription as a means of managing the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). Alan structures each masterclasses to first provide the understanding behind the theory of a problem such as foot drop and then demonstrates techniques to help manage the issues experienced through the use of exercise.  Alan headshot 3.jpg

Our next masterclass is on Friday 16 April at 11am, which is second in the series of our online masterclasses where we will be focusing on corrective stretching. If you would like to know more about the session or how to register, click here.   

See below some of the feedback we have received from our masterclasses that have taken place so far

“I thought the session was nothing less than brilliant. So practical, so reassuring, and so understanding. Alan is amazing.” – Jackie 

“Alan's balance masterclass was excellent. I can't tell you how very helpful it is to get these insights into how our brains and bodies work together and the effects that damage can have and how we can work to maintain and improve those links. They are really motivational too.” - Sarah 

“It’s so helpful to learn about what’s going on in the brain and body and to understand more about the links between them. It’s obvious that Alan knows his stuff.” - Lisa 


Book a masterclass session 

Join our VIP panel to help shape MS-UK services

Posted on: March 03 2021

iStock-1264382760.jpgThe Virtual Insight Panel (VIP) was launched back in 2016 to enable us to be community-led, which is one of MS-UK’s core values. We currently have 37 members from within the multiple sclerosis (MS) community including those living with MS, carers, family members and professionals.

Our VIP are there to help inform the work we do and since the panel was created they have contributed to many projects from reviewing our Choices booklets to helping us decide that launching a counselling service in 2017 was the right thing to do. It clearly was as since then we have provided counselling to hundreds of people with MS and made a difference to their lives.

So far this year we have already asked the panel about helping us out with our staff development days, creating a strap line for our logo, providing research about podcasts and helping us choose the best design for our new leaflet for the MS-UK Counselling service.

We would like to recruit new members to join our other amazing VIP members. If you have would like to get involved then please go to and complete the application form.

If you can spare a few minutes each week or month to get involved then we would love to hear from you. Traditionally projects have been sent via email but this year we are looking to host some online focus groups on certain projects so we can see each other and have more of a discussion. This will also provide us and you an opportunity to meet others from the MS community

It is so important that we listen to the voices of those within the MS community to inform the work we do to make sure we get it right! If you would like further information please either go to, call Diana Crowe, Head of Services on 01206 226500 or email We look forward to hearing from you.

Order your free set of kindness postcards today

Posted on: February 16 2021

To commemorate Random Acts of Kindness Day 2021, we have designed a pack of postcards to help spread kindness far and wide.

Order your free pack now


Why are we celebrating this day?

In 2019, we began to research the issues of loneliness and isolation in the multiple sclerosis (MS) community. We found that 71 per cent of people affected by MS in the UK experience these issues, or have done in the past.

Our findings from this research also told us that the MS community believes in the power of kindness and friendship, and we should be sharing this message widely. So, whenever we have a chance to do this, we will!

Find out more about our research

Discover more

There are many organisations in the world promoting kindness. Here are some we have found - do let us know if you think of any more we can add, just contact us with your suggestions...

Be Kind Movement

Kindness UK

Random Acts of Kindness Foundation

Small Acts of Kindness

The Kindness Offensive

Come and try chair yoga for MS

Posted on: February 15 2021

Tracy headshot.JPG

Hello, my name’s Tracy Harris, and I’m from Summerhouse Yoga and Wellbeing. I am going to be holding an introductory session for chair yoga for people with multiple sclerosis (MS) over Zoom on Wednesday 24 February 2021 at 11:15am. This session aims to introduce MS-UK’s new chair yoga classes that will be commencing in March 2021 for those who are new to yoga, as well as those who have practised yoga before.

Chair yoga is a practice of simple exercises that you can do daily to help move, strengthen and stretch your body, while expanding your breath and calming your mind, free from the everyday ‘chitter chatter’.

Yoga is not just for bendy, flexible people as is sometimes wrongly portrayed in the media. It is an all-round approach that adapts well for seated practice to help with strength and flexibility in body and mind.

It helps us to focus and concentrate, find peace, contentment, and balance our emotions. Yoga is a hugely beneficial practice for everyone, but particularly for those who face serious life challenges every day. 

Chair yoga is a fantastic modern form of yoga, accessible to all, and has all the benefits of a traditional yoga practice. It is a gentle form of yoga and you will be encouraged to work within your own ability and at your own pace.  

The word ‘yoga’ means ‘to yoke’ or connect body, mind and soul and bring about a feeling of contentment.

Some of the benefits of yoga include

  • Improves energy, strength, flexibility and balance
  • Calms the mind
  • Boosts immune system
  • Ease anxiety
  • Improves sleep
  • Improves clarity and focus
  • Be in the present moment, not worrying about the future

If you sign up for the course you will learn a variety of breath practices to improve breathing patterns, enhance lung capacity, balance emotions, and relieve stress.  You will learn movement practices for the upper body and the lower body. 

We will also take some standing practices for those that can, holding onto the support of a chair, table or wall. These will focus on strengthening practices and simple supported balances to help with confidence and ability when standing or walking. For those that cannot stand, Tracy will offer seated alternatives throughout. You will also learn some concentration and meditation techniques that help to find peace and contentment.

Knowing these techniques of chair yoga and applying them for just a few minutes a day can quickly restore a sense of balance, focus, and allow you to regain your sense of wellbeing. 

You can join the course at any time. Although there will be progression from week to week, each class will stand alone so you can join in anytime.

If you think that yoga is not for you because you physically cannot get up and down off the floor, then think again. Feedback from our information session in August included

“It was really good. I found it very relaxing and the stretches were really well targeted for problem areas.”

“Tracy was great, explaining and demonstrating the different stretches, movements and mind focusing so well. I really felt that I was beginning to visualise getting my ‘brain messages’ through to the muscles on my MS weakened side… I loved it and I'd definitely be up for more!”

“I really enjoyed this morning’s yoga with Tracey. I felt relaxed after the session and my back felt a little easier. I do hope that this is something that can be carried forward with our MS group.”

“I liked the whole session. She was both professional and friendly”.

“That was an amazing session! Definitely look forward to more.”

For the taster session, you will need

  • A sturdy chair, preferably without arms. A dining room chair would be perfect. A wheelchair with brakes on is fine, especially if the arms can be removed (but not an office chair on wheels)
  • A firm block, book or cushion to put under your feet if your feet don’t touch the floor when you are sitting back into the chair
  • A cushion to make the chair comfortable (optional)
  • A blanket for resting at the end (optional)
  • Try not to be disturbed – turn notifications off on your phone

You’re in good hands

Tracy is a fully qualified and experienced British Wheel of Yoga Teacher.  She has been teaching yoga for 13 years to many students of varying abilities. Tracy has worked with people and families facing challenges, including people with MS, people living with or recovering from cancer, heart conditions, motor neurone disease, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, bi-polar disorder, anxiety, asthma, and recovering from stroke. One of Tracy’s passions in teaching yoga is to adapt practices so that everyone can learn techniques to add to their own ‘wellbeing toolkit’ to use anytime they would like. 

Find out more about chair yoga sessions

Regular vs functional exercise for MS

Posted on: February 09 2021

Headshot_0.jpgDr Gretchen Hawley is a multiple sclerosis exercise specialist who will be hosting information sessions for MS-UK Online – be sure to book your place

I’m often asked what the most important thing is when it comes to exercises with multiple sclerosis (MS). My answer is always ‘functional exercise’. Functional exercises are activity-based whereas regular exercises are weakness-based.

The difference is that exercises that are weakness-based will likely increase the strength of that muscle, but the renewed strength often does not result in improved function with daily activities and movements, such as walking.

Functional exercises break down a specific activity that is challenging and strengthens the body in a specific way that will make that activity easier. For example, if someone has hip weakness which is making it difficult to walk, a regular exercise may be a straight leg raise, or perhaps the clamshell or side-lying leg raise.

Breaking down movement

However, a functional exercise would require the breakdown of that movement. Continuing with this example, walking requires knee bending, toe lifting, knee lifting, balance, and weight shifting. Therefore, these five movements should be the exercises that are performed to achieve improved walking.

It’s best to choose a position for the client where the movements can be done successfully. Ideally, this is the same position as the activity (for example for walking, the position is standing), however it can be performed in other positions, like sitting. Replacing regular exercise with functional exercise can make a world of a difference for those with MS. It’s often the difference between remaining at your current ability level and improving your mobility and energy.

In our upcoming information sessions I’m hosting on behalf of MS-UK, we’ll be revealing all of the best tips and strategies to help you get the most out of your MS-specific exercises that promote neuroplasticity, discussing the difference between regular exercise and functional exercise, and our final session will be on spasticity.

Hope to see you there,

Dr Gretchen Hawley

Find out more

Single session therapy explained

Posted on: February 04 2021

Mark Howe.JPGMS-UK Counsellor Mark Howe introduces single session therapy – could it be right for you?

Last year MS-UK piloted single session therapy (SST) as a different way of working with clients who register for the counselling service.

As the name suggests, SST is a one-off session with a member of the MS-UK Counselling team, all of whom are registered with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). Our usual counselling service is a course of six sessions.

The single session lasts a maximum of 1.5 hours. Prior to the session, you specify an issue you would like to work on. Then, the counsellor and you work together as a team to explore the issue and identify a plan of action, which you can put into place immediately after the session comes to an end. This is designed to either resolve the issue, or support you in reducing its impact, thus making it easier to live with.

The concept

Although this a new service for us here at MS-UK, the concept itself is not new. One of the first therapists who practised SST was Sigmund Freud. It is reported that the pioneer of long-term psychoanalysis carried out two well-known single-session treatments in 1893. Renowned therapists such as Alfred Adler, Milton Erickson and Albert Ellis pioneered the use of single therapy sessions. It wasn’t until 1990, however that the field of SST became an established technique.

In its modern day form, SST is a cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), or a solution-focused concept. CBT was developed in the 1960s by Aaron Beck, with solution-focused therapy being developed in America during the 1980s by Steve De Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg. Modern day SST is a product of both of these approaches, with Windy Dryden being perhaps the best known promotor of SST.

To date, MS-UK have had a number of clients taking part in the SST pilot. Feedback from those of you who have engaged with the single session has been positive and encouraging. Clients are encouraged to be honest and open with the counsellor they are working with in order to get the most from the experience. Personally, as a member of the MS-UK Counselling team, I have been surprised by how much can be achieved in an hour and a half if the client is motivated to make change. I think it is fair to say SST is not for everyone, but for those clients who can connect and engage, the rewards are impressive.

Could you benefit?

To register, please go to our webpage If possible, we would ask that a suggested donation of £25, or an amount of your choosing, is made in advance for the session to enable us to continue this work and provide support where it is needed most.

Our new peer support services are here for you – come and get involved!

Posted on: February 02 2021

Vicky.jpgMS-UK’s Peer Support Coordinator Vicky welcomes you to our new services which will connect you with others for support and more 

Hi, my name is Vicky, and for the past six years I worked as the centre assistant at MS-UK’s wellness centre.

One of the most positive elements of the centre was that it gave people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) an opportunity to meet others, to share experiences and offer each other support and encouragement.

When the first lockdown began in March 2020, we knew that our main priorities had to be to ensure people not only continued to stay physically active, but also to remain connected with their peers.

Beating isolation

This meant that we had to get creative and use technology to help. Our approach proved to be successful, and the feedback we received showed that these interactions went a long way in helping our people feel less isolated – particularly during such a challenging and uncertain time.

We have learned a great deal this past year, and our experience using digital platforms has shown us just how much we can offer, and how much further our reach can be, to help support those living with MS.

As we step into 2021, we are really excited about the new services we will be offering online. There is one that I am particularly thrilled to be a part of, because it has provided me with a new role at MS-UK!

Join our Peer Pods!

We will be offering everyone that engages with us through our online activities the opportunity to join a Peer Pod. These will be groups that will be formed to allow attendees to get together online. We will look to recruit a volunteer from within each group whose role it will be to arrange and facilitate regular sessions, with the aim of creating a positive and supportive space in which you can come together, whether that be to motivate and inspire each other, or just to socialise in general.

It is our hope that in doing so, you will gain the many benefits that we have seen peer support can bring – such as connection, understanding, encouragement and (importantly) laughter.

With that all being said, this is MS-UK’s new ‘Peer Support Coordinator’, saying goodbye for now, and hoping to see you in the very near future!

Best wishes,


Learn more about Peer Pods and how you can join

Find out about online information sessions and workshops

MS-UK's online exercise classes

Introducing MS-UK Online

Posted on: January 18 2021

Dean.JPGDean Jeffreys, Online Programmes and Project Manager, explains MS-UK’s new national service and why you should get involved

Hello! I am the newly appointed online programmes and project manager here at MS-UK. I have the pleasure of launching our new and exciting online service for 2021. I have been working at MS-UK for just over three years now, and I will be using this experience to deliver and offer a wide range of online activities for the multiple sclerosis (MS) community.

This year, we will begin by launching our online exercise classes that are accessible for all abilities, and showing you how to get the most out of exercising from home. In addition, we will be starting other new classes and courses that will be the core offering from MS-UK. This includes mindfulness courses, chair yoga sessions, and our peer support service that will help you connect and stay socially active with others.

As we move forward in the year, we will be adding many more activities that you can get involved in. This includes live information sessions on topic areas such as diet and nutrition, symptom management, and complementary therapies. We will also offer alternative activities to those that get you physically active, including sessions on things such as poetry classes and arts and crafts.

As with everything we do at MS-UK, it is community-led, so if you have suggestions for activities you would like to see us hold online, you can email us and tell us what activities you would like to see in the future.

FB photo Alan.jpgOnline exercise classes

Starting in January 2021, we have our new online exercise classes, with six classes taking place every week on a Tuesday and Thursday from 11am. The classes are structured in a way that will make them accessible for all.

The classes themselves have been specifically designed to help people stay active at home, and will be delivered by our Exercise Specialist, Alan Pearson. These classes will give you the confidence to manage your wellbeing independently by attending the classes and practising the exercises in your own time.

How the classes are structured

  • Level one (11-11:30am) will focus on exercises for those who are seated, have trunk (core) weakness and have limited upper limb movement
  • Level two (11:45am-12:15pm) will be for those who can transfer from sitting to standing independently but may require assistance or the use of a walking aid
  • Level three (12:30-1pm) for those who mobilise independently with minimal impairment

Find out more

Please visit our website page to see what we have going on and to book a class. If you have any questions and would like to know more about what we are offering, please email or call MS-UK on 01206 226500.

Thank you for reading and I hope to see you in a class with us soon!

‘He doesn’t complain, he doesn’t moan and he doesn't give up’

Posted on: December 15 2020

Simon Gardner 2.jpg
Left to right - Simon Gardner, Nigel Gardner, Ed Gardner and Phil Gardner

In October this year, I decided to run a virtual marathon, my first one. I began training, building up and getting the miles in my legs, tentatively at first to avoid injury but building up the distances as I went. It was very hard but didn’t take long and like my dad, I (quietly) don’t give up.

My motivation… my dad. An athlete, a footballer, champion snooker and darts player, canoeist and lifelong fisherman. He received his multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis when he was 27 years old, not long after I was born. He is now 66 and although the progression of the disease has been relatively gradual, it has taken away all those things. He has lost the vast majority of the mobility control in his legs amongst other things. Having lived with MS for 40 years I cannot believe how resilient and calm he is and yet open. We all keep a little back from our loved ones and I do not doubt that he does because this is his and he owns it. He shares what he wants and faces into what he doesn’t. He doesn’t complain, he doesn’t moan and he doesn't give up.

I originally intended to run the Official 2020 Virtual TCS New York City Marathon solo and self-supported, however, an ambitious practice run turned into the full distance a week ahead of schedule! I was out on the trails and things were working out well so decided to push on to make sure I understood what the ‘real thing’ would be like… good job too as I learnt a lot about what my body needs when under this much pressure. I thought of my dad.

On the day, after designing my route and packing my vest with food and water, I decided to set off from my dad’s home and take a nostalgic run through the old days along roads, towns and villages I remember when growing up. The weather was shocking with heavy rain and being soft underfoot - so Garmin ‘Set', crime audiobook ‘On’ (Dad loves detective stories), head down, swing the arms and see where the legs take you!

20 miles in and to be honest I’d had enough of natural beauty, enough of my audiobook, my body was rejecting food and all the water in the world was not hydrating me. There was no reason I could be, but I was bored! So I called my wife and spoke to my kids who buoyed me up. Then called my dad who picked up just as the wind and rain returned and couldn’t hear a damn word I was saying! They say the last six miles are the worst. That said, I completed it, solo and self-supported while playing detective in the pouring rain.

My reward (medal) is still in the mail from US however the New York Road Runners app provided this augmented reality one which really lifts the spirits when you award it yourself while you pose for as good a selfie as you can get (or care about getting!). My other reward was a cold, then hot bath, a can of American Cream Soda, nine sausages with huge amounts of Dad's mash.

I was reading about MS-UK and what caught my eye, in particular, was their focus on the mental health of individuals with a multiple sclerosis diagnosis. My dad, my brothers and I are all fortunate to have one another to provide all kinds of support, particularly through lockdown, but we all know there will be some serious and important decisions to make in the next few years. We will need to strike a balance between support and independence. There will also be times when we do not know what to do, or if it is the ‘right’ thing and we will need the support of MS-UK.

As for fundraising, I told my story to those at work, those I run with or who I know run. With so many charities, particularly in 2020, needing more support than ever I didn’t want to appear to pressure them but when explaining the reason for my choice and the impact the support of MS-UK will one day have, people gave what they could.

Simon has raised an incredible £737.53 for MS-UK, here is the link to his fundraising page

If you would like to take on your own challenge to raise money for MS-UK like Simon did, please contact Lucy today on 01206 226500 or

We have another new Choices booklet!

Posted on: November 19 2020

Spasms and spasticity front cover.JPGWe have been very busy on the MS-UK Helpline, not only answering all your calls, emails and web chats but writing new publications so you can be as informed as possible when it comes to managing your multiple sclerosis (MS).

Spasms and spasticity is a subject that you, the MS community, asked us to write about. Symptoms that are commonly experienced but not always really known what they are, what the difference is, or the many ways in which they can be managed.

This booklet will really help people to understand these symptoms, what causes them and the effects they can have. The booklet explains a variety of self-management techniques, as well as information on physiotherapy, different treatment options, complementary therapies and more. 

We surveyed the MS community about how they deal with their spasms and/or spasticity and we had great feedback. Thank you to those who shared their experiences. We have included a number of quotes within the booklet which really help to bring it to life. We do this with all our booklets because we can all learn from other people’s experiences. What works for one person will almost certainly help another.

You can download our new booklet from our website here. It is also available in plain text format. You can also order a hard copy and we will post this to you as soon as we are able. Please order via our website here.

To take a look at our full range of Choices booklets visit our website here. If you can’t find what you are looking for then please do contact our helpline and we will be happy to speak to you. We are here to provide unbiased information and professional support. We also provide emotional support should you just need someone to talk to.

We are here to help you to live a happier and healthier life.


Laura and Ryan

MS-UK Helpline