Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

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Resistance training study showed an improvement in mobility and quality of life

Summary
Women participating in a small study of progressive resistance (weight) training improved significantly in walking, and reported improvements in quality of life as well. The study used standard measures to evaluate the effects of the program, along with in-depth interviews of the participants to determine the full effects on quality of life. [Peter R. Giacobbi, Jr., Frederick Dietrich, Rebecca Larson, Lesley J. White. Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly. 2012, 29, 224 – 242]


The Study
Eight women between the ages of 40 to 63 years participated in the National MS Society (USA) funded study, and each had been diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS 2 to 16 years before enrolling in the study. Assessments of walking (mobility, leg function, and exercise tolerance) and interviews were conducted before the study, after a four-month progressive resistance training program, and approximately 8 months later. During the training period, participants performed three supervised exercise sessions per week in a university-based fitness center using conventional weight-lifting machines. Trainers had previous experience working with people with MS. Training protocols were individualized to accommodate individuals’ differences in fitness and to accommodate day-to-day variability in fatigue.

The interview questions focused on the participants’ physical activity, sport, and exercise program experiences; the impact of MS on daily life and on participating in physical activity; and attitudes about the resistance training intervention and factors that impeded or enhanced participation. The last interview focused on the degree to which physical activity behavior was maintained 8 months after the intervention and factors that facilitated or impeded continued involvement.


The Findings
Walking performance improved by more than 13%. Interviews indicated that all participants reported enhanced muscle endurance or delayed muscle fatigue, as well as strength. These experiences impacted performance of a variety of daily life tasks. “I have not used any of those electrical carts in any of the big stores in a long time now,” commented one participant, while another noted, “Since I’ve been doing this I’ve been having stuff [to do] every single day of the week. In the past I would do something one day and then rest the next day.”

Six participants reported improved physical capabilities that impacted daily tasks such as yard work, shopping, and chores around the house. Seven perceived a social impact, including making new friends, camaraderie with the other participants and research staff, being less of a burden on caregivers, and the development of a support network. Six claimed they had positive emotional responses due to the exercise program that included pride of accomplishment and a better mood. “I smile a lot more and that’s good,” noted one woman.

At the 8-month follow-up interviews, participants reported that they did not maintain as intensive of a physical activity routine, suggesting the importance of the social support and benefits within and outside the exercise facility.

This small study suggests that supervised resistance training may promote improvements in quality of life for women with relapsing remitting MS. It also suggests that providing supportive structures and relationships facilitates engagement in physical exercise. Individuals are encouraged to consult with their physician or physiotherapist before starting a new exercise program.

Source: National MS Society (USA)