Kessler Fundation researchers surveyed individuals with multiple sclerosis about their exercise activities, and how their participation was impacted by pandemic restrictions. The open access article, “Aquatic exercise for persons with MS: Patient-reported preferences, obstacles, and recommendations,” was published recently in Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders.

The authors are Michele H. Chen, PhD, from the Rutgers Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research (formerly at Kessler Foundation), and Brian M. Sandroff, PhD, John DeLuca, PhD, and Helen M. Genova, PhD, of Kessler Foundation.

The available treatments for MS have limitations in terms of symptomatic relief of the array of physical and cognitive symptoms experienced by many individuals, which has spurred interest in the role of health-related behaviors in minimizing MS-related disability. As a health-related behavior with known benefits on gait, balance, mood, and fatigue, researchers are exploring the role of exercise in the daily lives of people with MS. Aquatic exercise, which minimizes overheating and joint stress, has advantages for this population.

Researchers conducted an online survey of 179 individuals with multiple sclerosis about their exercise activities from October 2020 to April 2021. Respondents reported participating in non-aquatic exercise only (56%), aquatic exercise only (7%), or both (36%). The majority reported exercising less during pandemic-related restrictions. Although aquatic exercise was preferred by individuals with experience with this type of exercise, lack of access to pools and the costs associated with access were significant barriers.

The survey’s findings have implications for clinicians and their patients with MS, according to Dr. Genova, the Foundation’s associate director of the Center for Autism Research. “Clinicians should encourage their patients with MS to resume exercising as pandemic restrictions ease,” she advised. “Given the benefits of aquatic exercise for people with MS, and the finding that it was preferred, it is worthwhile to look at reducing barriers to this type of exercise. Encouraging community organizations and health and wellness programs to sponsor affordable aquatic exercise activities for people with MS would lower the barriers for participation, especially for the economically disadvantaged.”  

[Source(s): Kessler Foundation, EurekAlert]

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