Posted by: All About MS | June 28, 2010

Intermittent Exercise Helps Multiple Sclerosis Patients

Intermittent Exercise Helps Multiple Sclerosis Patients

Patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) are able to exercise longer when they take intermittent rest breaks, according to a new study presented here at the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers 24th Annual Conference and the Third Joint Meeting of Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis.

The approach could allow patients to get more benefit from exercise, and physical therapy, researchers say.

Fatigue is a common symptom of MS and frequently limits a patient’s ability to exercise. Herb Karpatkin, DSc, MPT, a physical therapist, MS specialist, and professor at the Hunter College Program in Physical Therapy in Brooklyn, New York, and colleagues set out to determine if patients reported different levels of fatigue when they engaged in intermittent instead of continuous exercise. They enrolled 30 ambulatory patients in a study with a repeated-measures, crossover, and within-subject design. Participants had Expanded Disability Status Scale scores between 2.0 and 6.5. They were asked to perform 6 minutes of continuous or intermittent walking.

A visual analog scale of fatigue was used to measure fatigue. When patients walked for 6 minutes continuously, self-rating of fatigue went from a mean of 43.53 points to 68.73 points — an increase of 25.20 points. During intermittent walking, the mean fatigue score went from 48.03 to 57.20 — an increase of 9.17 points. Disease severity, duration, and the mood of the participant had no effect on the change in score.

The intermittent approach was suggested by his patients, Dr. Karpatkin told Medscape Neurology & Neurosurgery.

Intermittent exercise seems to have the same physical benefit as continuous exercise. A comparison hasn’t been done in MS patients, but comparison studies of intermittent and continuous exercise have shown the 2 forms of exercise to be equivalent in chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, obesity, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and fibromyalgia, Dr. Karpatkin said.

Exercise does take longer, but success is generally its own reward, he noted. “There was 1 patient who couldn’t walk more than 3 or 4 minutes on a treadmill; after a few sessions, she could do 20 or 25 minutes. That’s a very powerful thing for her,” Dr. Karpatkin said.

“It bodes well for us in how we prescribe exercise programs,” Susan Bennett, PT, EdD, NCS, physical therapist and clinical associate professor at the University of Buffalo, New York, who attended the session, told Medscape Neurology & Neurosurgery. Still, the results are preliminary. “More research is needed,” Dr. Bennett added.

The study did not receive commercial support. Dr. Karpatkin and Dr. Bennett have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.



  1. I need help. My husband has ms and he needs to be encouraged to exercise says that the ms is the problem he can’t walk and thinks that exercise is silly it won’t help. How do i modivate him. I have treadmill, sitting bike, home weight gym .. walking sticks, everything but words to exercise is like telling him i found a cure. It means nothing to him and i feel like i am loosing him and watching my strong husband fade away. I AM SCARED. loving wife of 2 children, caregiver and self-employed with husband’s job

  2. Hi,
    What activies did he enjoy before he had MS? Try those activies. Maybe you could make these activies a family affair. I wasn’t exercising as much I should have until I bought a Wii and the Wii Fit Plus and Wii Sports. Wii Fit can be set up for 4 different people to do mild to more aggressive exercises on. It is a lot of fun. You do not compete with each other. The Wii keeps track of each individual’s time and scores for that person and their own person best. I now exercise more. I live in Saskatchewan, Canada where we have very harsh winters and very hot summers it is very difficult for me to get outside and exercise easily.

    It also sounds like your husband may be depressed. Ask your doctor what you can do to aid in overcoming your husband’s depression. As, I am sure your husband won’t go for counceling.


  3. Try a Wii Fit, it is fun to use. The whole family will enjoy it. Could your husband’s doctor give him some antidepressants. Depression is a big factor in MS. So is Bi-Polar. He really needs medication and therapy.

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