It is now known, thanks to years of collaboration among clinicians and researchers, that exercise is helpful in managing many multiple sclerosis symptoms. It can still be difficult to find the motivation to exercise; even knowing that exercise is beneficial in controlling the symptoms of MS. Part of the problem is that we tend to set lofty goals and end up not following through or even starting! This is one of the reasons that most of us beyond the age of 35 or so stop making New Year’s resolutions. It is very easy to set a goal and then never even start.
Goals are often hard to achieve if they are too big and complicated, too vague and not realistic for time. A great start for goal setting is to use the P.A.U.S.E System. Each letter of the acronym stands for an important part of this system.
First, you should plan your strategy. Remember that large plans can create fear or be overwhelming. Start with smaller steps. Account for changes by recognizing what factors can change. You can track these changes by writing them down and noting what changes you make. Understand your barriers, both internal and external. Internal barriers can include not having a plan or being resistant to change. External barriers might be life changes or negative feedback from others.
Slow your pace and focus on what you can control now in the present. Use relaxation techniques or mindfulness exercises to help slow your pace. And finally, exercise your options. Figure out where in your life you want to start with changes and determine when you want to start. Also determine a plan and resolve to track your progress.
The capabilities and limitation of the individual need to be taken into account when designing an exercise program. Keep in mind that programs may need to be adjusted, and can be adjusted, as changes occur in MS symptoms. A physical therapist experienced with the symptoms of MS can be helpful in creating, managing and revising an exercise program. Also, an individual with MS should consult with a physician before starting an exercise program.
The primary components of an exercise program include flexibility, strength training, cardiovascular exercise, and balance. An exercise program may, for example, include strength training with resistance bands and incorporating yoga or tai chi for balance. An arm bike or swimming might work for cardiovascular training. There are many options available for individuals of all mobility levels.
The Can Do Multiple Sclerosis webinar New Years’ Resolutions – Motivation to Exercise discusses how to implement and be motivated to begin your entrance to this exciting world of exercise (Yes, it CAN be exciting!). There are also other archived Can Do MS and Live Fully, Live Well webinars available on the topics of motivation, exercise and mobility. To view this webinar please click here.