...And the answer should be yes, exercise!
There used to be a time when practitioners didn’t encourage their patients with multiple sclerosis to exercise. It was thought that exercise would worsen the condition rather than be a benefit. Now, studies abound touting exercise as a key component to living well with MS, and positively managing the multitude of symptoms that can often accompany the disease.
I have a similar story to most of you, I’m sure. At the time of my diagnosis, I had lost partial use of the left side of my body. When I heard the doctor say ”MS,” I thought my days doing anything physical were over. Then, one day many years post-diagnosis, I got to a point where I finally decided I needed to do something. My legs were working so I figured I should use them. I started various exercise programs and the one that has surprisingly stuck with me is running.
First, I have to start off by saying that I don't consider myself a runner. In fact, I used to dread and hate anything that had to do with running. When I say I hated running, I mean, I HATED it! It took me a while to get to this point but I found that, although difficult at first, I actually started to enjoy running.
Not only was it helping me with my weight and keeping me physically healthy in that regard but I noticed other benefits as well. It was helping me with my self-image and confidence, elevating my mood, improving my overall mental state, and allowing me to better manage stress. It turns out that I’m a much happier and nicer person to be around if I can get a run in!
Miraculously, running has also helped me with the horrible fatigue that I experience. I was so amazed to realize that my afternoon ritual nap that I so desperately needed to make it through the day was getting fewer and farther in between. Now, I nap every once in a blue moon, if at all.
Lastly, exercising is empowering me in this fight against multiple sclerosis. Running is my way of sticking out my tongue and blowing raspberries at MS.
Now I know running is not for everyone. Some days I’m not even sure it’s for me and I have to remind myself why I’m doing it. I’m training for life, and for LIVING the best possible life I can, while I can. I'm fighting MS every step of the way and it's not going to get the best of me!
I know everyone’s MS is different and we are all affected by it in so many various ways but I can’t recommend enough the benefit of finding the right exercise program. Don’t let any limitations affect your decision to try something. There are so many programs out there that are specifically designed for people who may have certain physical limitations.
Don’t give up! Keep trying exercise programs until you find the one that works best for you. Of course, be safe and always listen to your body. And, most importantly, keep that positive attitude!
I'm proud to say that in July 2016, I finished my first half marathon — running 13.1 miles to mark my 13th year living with multiple sclerosis. I still don’t consider myself a runner…but I did it.
SHARE WITH US. Do you exercise regularly? What have you found that works for you? What benefits have you noticed? Your comments may inspire others as well as help them discover the perfect exercise program.