Exercising with Multiple Sclerosis

Tamika Hassum
Accredited Exercise Physiologist
16th November 2022


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. Many of the symptoms associated with MS can be reduced through movement and exercise. Check out some things to be aware of when exercising with MS.


Multiple sclerosis (MS)

MS is characterised by damage to the central nervous system known as demyelination or plaques throughout the brain and spinal cord. This interrupts and slows the transmission of nerve impulses and causes a number of symptoms, including:

  • Physical disability
  • Cognitive disability
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Temperature sensitivity
  • Depression

Whilst there is no current known cure for MS, exercise is considered safe and effective with an ability to reduce many of the symptoms associated with the disease.


The research indicates that some of these benefits include:

  • Less relapses
  • Increased mobility
  • Increased strength
  • Increased cardiovascular health
  • Reduced severity of fatigue
  • Reduced incidence of depression and anxiety
  • Reduced pain
  • Improved balance
  • Better quality of life
  • It is recommended to introduce exercise into your life as early as possible after diagnosis as this can assist with preventing progression of the disease.


What are the exercise guidelines for MS?

For adults with mild to moderate MS, it is recommended:

  • 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity on 2 days per week
  • Strength training for major muscle groups on 2 days per week
  • Exercise to work on balance and flexibility should be done as often as tolerated


If you are already exercising, this can increase to:

  • 40 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic exercise on 5 days per week
  • Strength training for major muscle groups on 2 days per week


What should I be aware of with exercising with MS?

  • Fatigue: exercise and fatigue management strategies will help your fatigue level in the long term, but it is important to be graded in your exercise approach to ensure no exacerbation.
  • Heat sensitivity: Keep cool and hydrated during exercise sessions as small changes in environment or body temperate can increase symptoms.
  • Spasticity and contractures: Perform stretching exercises daily to help promote length in your muscles to decrease spasticity and prevent contracture.
  • Finding support: An Exercise Physiologist is incredibly important stakeholder in your MS management. They will ensure that your exercise therapy is graded, safe and effective for you individually.