A new research study at Canada's Memorial University shows reducing body temperature during physical exercise can help rewire the brain and improve motor control in patients with multiple sclerosis.
If you don't have the chance to be able to walk in a controlled situation like the study there are things you can do.
Use a cooling vest like UnderCool.
Lower the thermostat in the area where you are exercising or walking.
Use a cooling towel, there are many on the market. You can use one like we offer or even a wet dish cloth around your shoulders will help.
Place a fan right in front of your treadmill.
This is really cool news! There have been lots of blog posts on the study and we have looked at a few of them but we are really happy with ALICE MELO blog from Multiple Sclerosis Today sums it all up.
Physical exercise can have several benefits for patients with MS, including improved strength and reduced symptoms of fatigue and depression. However, many patients are advised to limit their physical activity because they often experience heat sensitivity and their symptoms worsen.
Michelle Ploughman, PhD, who is Memorial's Canada Research Chair in neuroplasticity, neurorehabilitation and brain recovery, and her collaborators wanted to investigate if cooling a patient's body could help them exercise, and how much cooling would be needed.
The study enrolled nine patients with MS who were asked to walk on a treadmill with a supportive harness for 30 minutes in a room that was kept at 16C (approximately 60.8F). Patients exercised three times a week, for a total of 12 weeks.
The research team then evaluated the participants' brains to assess how the brain cells were working. They also measured walking speed, oxygen use, lesions in the brain, and markers of recovery in the blood.
According to the team, patients were able to tolerate the treatment with significant improvements in their walking ability during the study period.
This is really remarkable! Keeping cool helps motor control and walking ability.
For several years, Jennifer Archer, one of the study participants, watched her mother and her grandmother succumb to MS. When she was diagnosed with the disease she already knew what her fate would be. However, enrolling into the study had a major impact on her symptoms, much more than she could expect.
She first thought she would be able to get through two or three minutes on the treadmill in the first session. But, to her great surprise, she walked for 40 minutes.
According to the participants of the study, the tested exercise strategy did not improve only their mobility, but it also improved their energy levels, helped them make new friends, and --- perhaps most importantly --- it gave them a new hope.
"Psychologically, this has helped me so much. My depression is non-existent since I started this," Archer said. "That means MS has not beaten me down. MS does not have control over my life. I have control over my life. I'm a person who has MS, but I've pulled MS away from who I am."
We hope this helps navigate the world of exercise and MS. Please let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
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