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There are gobs of exercises you can do seated on your couch, walker or wheelchair. Search for seated exercise programs on Google and go to town. But since I prefer working out more intensely, I usually just follow standing hardcore exercise programs and modify them to fit my disability. For at-home exercises, your fave video service almost certainly offers exercise programs for free on demand.

There are exercise video programs that are MS specific. There are also a bevy of other programs with a wide range of intensity if you go a-searching. Some I like, some go too slowly, and some have more talking than actual exercise. Find what works for you. You can do it sitting down: Do your home work.

Working out at home is cheap, convenient, and darn easy. Since MS can make even getting out of the house tricky at times, take advantage of staying in where you can regulate the temperature yourself and doing what you can. Some light free weights, a set of resistance bands, and a mat can make all the difference. If you want to beef up your home gym, initial temptations are to invest in a seated cardio machine that works both your upper and lower body, like the NuStep.

They can run into the thousands of dollars, which is budget busting for many MSers. If down the road the saddle is too high to mount, you can still work your arms from the front of the bike from a seated position wheelchair or walker. Plus the fan offers built-in cooling. Take advantage of your surroundings. Your house has lots of natural supports beyond its walls, from doorjambs and hallways perfect for two arms to couches, chairs and doors.

There are video game systems, like the Xbox Kinect and the Nintendo Wii, that will help challenge you to get and stay active. They also may improve strength, endurance and balance. Remember that no matter how you feel, exercise will not make your MS worse although it could temporarily amplify your symptoms. Exercise your brain instead: While they are extremely affordable, resistance bands can be hazardous if you have severe spasticity muscle tightness.

Also, make sure your exercise space is clear and open. Tripping on a throw rug is decidedly not fun. And while you are doing that, work on your balance by standing on one foot be sure to hold onto something to start. Want to flex your brain? Use your non-dominant hand to polish those pearly whites. Sit on the edge of the bed and write out the alphabet using your feet.

This exercise helps with proprioception, or knowing where your body is in space. Gyms are notorious for filling up handicapped parking spaces due to seniors working to get in shape, too. If finding a spot is tricky for you, check the class schedule and avoid going to the gym during times when classes for senior citizens are being held unless you are in the class, of course!

Ask for a discount. Many fitness centers and ski areas offer deep discounts to those with disabilities or diseases. If anyone asks, I keep a note in my glove box … or I just awkwardly walk for them. Get an exercise buddy. Some of us can get motivated to exercise just by putting on sneakers, while others might need a bit more prodding.

Research and personal experience has found that enlisting someone to exercise with regularly does wonders and helps keep both of you honest. This is especially helpful at the gym. Look up to stay cool. Before you start working out on a cardio machine, look up. Check your ego at the door. Incontinence problems are common with MS. Use the bathroom before exercise and if you feel that urge during your workout, you know the drill.

Stop and get to a restroom.

Stretch before and after. Limber up your body by slowly warming up. After your exercise session, take time to cool down with minutes of stretching. It makes getting onto the floor and back up again much easier. The best programs for flexibility and balance include yoga, tai chi, and Pilates. They are taught at many gyms. Try each one and see what you like best. Whether you are taking a yoga or Pilates class, it may help to let your instructor know about your multiple sclerosis. He or she likely will have ways your modify poses and exercises to better suit your ability.

I like to choose a spot near a wall—or better yet, a corner so I can grab two walls! Break out the walking aids. Exercising causes your body to produce heat and heat exacerbates symptoms. For many of us with MS, that means walking may get a little more challenging. It makes no sense to work out trying to stay healthy if you fall and bust your hip because you were too vain to use a cane or a walker.

You absolutely do not want to be put out of commission for months, so if you need a walking aide, use the darn thing. The gym I frequent is rather large, so I go in with a pair of forearm crutches and my wheelchair. I roll to go from the parking lot to the fitness area, and then use my crutches indoors where the distances are closer.

And the wheelchair is a nice backup to have when I need to make a quick beeline to the, ahem, facilities. Exercise machines that offer support, like upright or recumbent bikes, tend to be more comfortable and safer to use especially if you have balance and coordination issues than those machines that require your full body weight like treadmills. That said, weight-bearing exercises help improve balance and prevent osteoporosis, a common complication of MS, so try to mix them in. If you do just one cardio exercise or stick to just a few weight machines, you could create muscle imbalance.

Keep changing your program to keep your body on its toes and your motivation at its peak. Amp up the cardio. An easy trick to maximize your aerobic work is to limit your time between exercises to maintain a higher heart rate. Right after pumping up your biceps, jump to triceps. Cold water does two things brilliantly. First, it hydrates you, which is important when you are sweating off liquids.

Second, researchers have found that people with MS can exercise longer and harder when they take frequent drinks of icy beverages. Put the phone down. That ding is not that important. That Facebook update telling people you are exercising is not that important. That perfect song is not that important. Go longer by going shorter. Then take a break after 10 minutes and do a seated punching routine for a minute or two.

Then pedal again for a few minutes, rest the legs, and do your best Ali.

A Former Shoe Designer Applies His Skills to MS Cooling Products

Repeat until you get your full time on the bike, plus all the extra cardio of air boxing. The best part about exercising in the pool is that you can work your body in so many different ways. Swim laps, participate in water aerobics, or get creative and invent your own ways to get your body moving throw a Nerf ball and then run after it, toss it against a wall and play catch with yourself. Seek pool temps of degrees. Some pools can get over 90 degrees, which will do your MS no favors and ramp up symptoms.

Pools tend to be coolest in the early morning. Use the bathroom first, really. That said, there is an average of 8 gallons of pee in a public pool, so, uh, yeah. Count to 30 or longer. If your body is anything like mine, my leg strength wanes after doing reps of leg weights or doing cardio leg work. Give your legs a chance to recover before popping up to the next machine to lower the risk of falling. Someone wants to work in? If you are a bit wobbly on your feet, before you start walking from one piece of equipment to another, scout a clear path ahead of you and look for grab points so you can catch yourself if you start to teeter.

Fatigue is running you down? Your legs no worky? Then do that arm spinny cardio thingy. While it might not be dazzlingly entertaining, it works up a sweat.

ActiveMSers: Staying Active With Multiple Sclerosis

Many fitness machines can be used in creative ways to work around your disabilities. But if I straddle the machine and just crank the arms, I can rocket into my cardio zone. Normally this would be poor gym etiquette, but if you are in a chair or mobility is a serious issue, screw etiquette. That will minimize the need to move around, maximizing your energy for your MS fitness routine. Use toe straps or wear bike shoes. With my feet pretty numb, wearing toe straps while I bike keeps my legs from flying off the pedals and allows me to go at a faster cadence.

Some exercise bikes work with bike shoes, which are even better than simple straps and my number one choice when they are available. You are at the gym to work out, not talk, right? Having MS can be socially isolating, and fellow workout partners who you see regularly can become a second family, which is good for the soul.


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Put your tunes on pause for a moment, be friendly and learn their stories. These are your teammates. If they ask about your disability, fill them in. Avoid asking a grandparent to lug a lb dumbbell unless he or she is pretty darn fit. Getting sick while you have MS can trigger an attack and good hygiene is the number one way to avoid colds.

Walking and hiking are excellent low-impact exercises if you are capable. I play games when I walk in my neighborhood, like counting dogs, lawn ornaments, or rating landscaping on a scale of Go biking or triking. And you thought having a trike was only for those five and younger. Their stability is unmatched. I personally have a hand trike, which allows me to go much farther and faster due to my wonky legs. Deltas typically sit a bit higher, so they are easier to get in and out of the seat.

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Tadpoles tend to sit closer to the ground, so they are more performance oriented. Also watch the weight: Get a leg up. Recent studies have shown that upper leg endurance exercises quads and hamstrings can indeed enhance walking ability. Yes, they may make you walk worse in the short term, but they will benefit your walking in the long term. Winter sports, such as skiing, snowboarding, adaptive skiing, ski biking, and even curling are good options if you have multiple sclerosis. You stay cool and all of these activities allow you to go at your own pace.

Play tennis or shoot hoops. Take advantage of mornings. Second, you are most likely to be fresh earlier in the day fatigue tends to be worse mid afternoon. Third, you can check off exercising from your to-do list before its lunchtime! Cool evenings are also a welcome respite from the midday sun.

Get thee to thy ballroom. Tisha, a fellow ActiveMSer, swears by ballroom dancing. Makes sense, because your dance partner can add stability even if you have two left feet like me.


  • In My Shoes: A Journey to Living Well with Multiple Sclerosis by Mary Monaghan Sypawka.
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  • Former Shoe Designer Now Creates MS Cooling Products | Everyday Health!

Stick your left foot out and shake it all about? Unless you want dance floor carnage, dream on! Hop on a horse. A number of MSers give thumbs up to therapeutic riding or hippotherapy. There are likely programs in your area that are geared to the total beginner. Anything on the water tends to be cooler than on land.

The world is your oyster, so try scuba diving, snorkeling, surfing, kayaking, whitewater rafting, canoeing, water volleyball, water basketball, water Frisbee, well, you get the idea. Walk down your driveway. Just get outside and soak up a little Vitamin D. Work on balance and fire new muscle groups by walking on your heels, on your toes, sideways, backward, and up and down hills. Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Goodbye to Back Pain! The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. Living with Multiple Sclerosis Ms for over 50 Years.

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Ann-Marie Bochicchio - Survivor! My Journey With Meniere's Disease. Living With Multiple Sclerosis. Multiple Sclerosis, Melanoma and More. I Cried Until I Laughed. Bianca's Guide to Raising Twins: The Guide to Breast Reconstruction. Hundreds of Interlaced Fingers. The MS Project - volume 2. Dealing With a Diagnosis.

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What is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?