When it comes to exercise and multiple sclerosis (MS) we know exercise has been shown to improve the overall health outcomes for people with MS. However for people living with MS there are often many barriers to adopting a well-planned bespoke exercise programme with an emphasis on health and wellness.
One area that the MS-UK Helpline often offer support is mapping out where people can go to find supported or assisted exercise in their community that will understand MS or have experience of supporting people with long term conditions.
There are around 60 MS Therapy Centres in the UK. All are independent charities and offer a variety of different types of exercise and physiotherapy. The common theme across all of the centres is ‘self-help is our way of action’. Many of the larger centres may have support groups, MS nurse clinics, counselling and benefits advice. Some of the smaller centres will likely be volunteer led, only be open a couple of days a week and only offer limited services.
From looking at what kind of exercise support is available we have seen examples ranging from gym work to hydrotherapy, from yoga to Pilates, from chair aerobics to specialised power assisted exercise equipment. The centres also offer various other therapies, some of which include oxygen therapy, massage and reflexology. If you have a therapy centre near you, it is worth seeing what services they provide.
The therapy centres are a great resource but there are many areas that do not have a centre and where options are few and far between.
What if there is no centre nearby, or you don’t really know what you are looking for, and maybe feel that a general gym isn’t quite enough? To find a gym instructor with a good understanding of MS or knowledge of exercises suitable for people with a long term condition can be tricky.
Having an assisted exercise and bespoke tailored program to suit your needs can make the whole experience much easier. Having something designed specifically for you can help to ensure that exercise will be maintained and you can stick to it over time. This can, therefore, help maintain ability, develop stamina and instil more confidence.
If there is no MS therapy centre near you there may be other options. There are some MS specific organisations that are not therapy centres that offer physio and exercise support. The MS Research and Relief Fund are based in the North East of England and offer a wide range of physiotherapy and fitness support from one to one sessions, seated exercise, exercise bikes, Pilates, classes and a vibrogym. They offer outreach across the region to enable as much accessibility as is possible.
MS-UK has a wellness centre Josephs Court in Colchester. The centre is open six days a week with some evening availability too. There is a range of specialist neurological rehabilitation equipment and power assisted exercise options, as well as items that you would expect to see in a more traditional exercise and physiotherapy environment. The centre also offers pain management services (APS therapy) complementary therapies, physiotherapy and social activities.
The MS Society and the majority of its local branches will offer some kind of activity and exercise options. They also have an ‘MS Physical Activity Specialist’ service who can be contacted via their helpline service. The MS Physical Activity Specialist can help find accessible activities in the area, complete an assessment of your needs, create an action plan and offer ongoing support over a 12 month period.
If you were wanting to exercise at home or at your local gym and were wanting to follow a programme developed by someone with a good understanding of MS, it may well be worth looking into connecting with Dom Thorpe. Dom is a specialist coach working with people with a disability. He has specialist programmes for people with MS called the MS warrior training programme and the MS custom fit programme. His services are chargeable. He does also have a Facebook group called ‘Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Fitness & Exercise Motivation with Dom Thorpe’. In this group, Dom and the members of the group share tips and give peer support to each other to help with exercise goals. Dom also has a series of YouTube videos which may be useful for you. He has worked in partnership with the MS Society to develop a programme that may well support you with work outs at home.
Mbodies Training Academy is an education provider specialising in Continued Professional Development (CPD) education for Physiotherapists, fitness focused medical professionals, Pilates Instructors and advanced fitness professionals. Mbodies have training and qualifications titled ‘Understanding Multiple Sclerosis for Exercise Professionals’, ‘Exercise for MS Specialist’, ‘Pilates for Multiple Sclerosis Specialist’, ‘Pilates for Neurological Conditions’, and ‘Exercises for Neurological Conditions’. The Mbodies website has a search for an instructor function to help you find a qualified professional near you.
We will be following up soon with part two of this blog series about supported exercise options, if there are any options that we have missed, please do drop us a line or call 0800 783 0518. We always listen to people affected by MS and it will inform the work of Helpline in future.