Children with multiple sclerosis (MS) who exercise regularly may have less active disease symptoms, according to a new study.

According to the study, published in the August 12 online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, researchers gave 31 children with MS and 79 children who had experienced a single inflammatory event questionnaires about tiredness, depression, and exercise frequency, per a news release from the American Academy of Neurology.

Of those children surveyed, 60 were also given MRI brain scans to measure brain volume and the amount and type of MS lesions they had, the release continues.

Only 45% of the children with MS reported participating in any strenuous physical activity, compared to 82% of the other children. The children with MS who took part in strenuous physical activity were more likely to have a lower overall volume (amount) of lesions in the brain that indicate disease activity, or T2 lesions, than the children with MS who did not do strenuous activity. Those who did strenuous activity had a median of 0.46 cm3 of T2 lesions, compared to 3.4 cm3 for those with no strenuous activity, the release explains.

Also, per the release, those with strenuous activity had a median of 0.5 relapses per year, compared to one per year for those with no strenuous activity. The children with MS also had higher levels of tiredness and depression compared to the other children studied. There were no differences in whole brain volumes. The results were the same after researchers adjusted for the severity of the children’s disease.

“These findings add to the possibility that physical activity may have a beneficial effect on the health of the brain,” says study author E. Ann Yeh, MD, with The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, associate professor at the University of Toronto and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, in the release.

Yeh notes in the release that the study does not determine a cause-and-effect relationship between physical activity and disease activity in MS, but only shows an association between the two.

[Source(s): American Academy of Neurology, Science Daily]