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Work Out Tips for People living with MS

By Matt Cavallo

If you are like me, the thought of returning to the gym with multiple sclerosis is a daunting task. I had a serious MS relapse that left me physically weak and with confidence that I could work out again. Then I read a study about how working out with weights can help people living with MS improve strength, fatigue, and emotional well-being. Here are some tips that I have learned for working out with MS.

Purchase a membership to a gym or the YMCA. Buying a membership to the gym or the “Y” is a way to hold yourself accountable to working out. Gyms also have equipment that is safe to use and trained professionals who can help start you on the right path to achieve your work out goals. 

Use a nautilus machine over free weights. Nautilus machines guide movement to make sure your form is correct. This is safer for those who want to return to working out after experiencing issues related to MS. Because the movement is guided and secured with cables in the machines, it requires less supervision, so it is easier to work out alone.

Use low weight and higher reps. Less weight and higher reps help to build endurance. Endurance is key to help counter fatigue. It takes a while to fight through the fatigue, especially when you are first getting back into working out after a medical-related absence or if you are starting at the gym for the first time and you are not sure where to begin. Low weight and high reps will help you build your endurance, as well as confidence, and start you on a positive path to work out success.

Set expectations. Setting proper expectations for working out is key to sticking with it. When I was younger, working out was easy. Now that I am in my 40s and have been living with MS for more than 15 years, I need to reset my expectations. If I expect that I can do what I could do prior to MS, I may become frustrated and quit.

Work out with a personal trainer. A personal trainer specializes in creating workout routines that are specific to their client. They also know how to use all of the machines in the gym correctly. When I am working out with my trainer, he shows me how to use different machines that I never would have thought of on my own, which has led to better results. I also have found that paying for a personal trainer keeps me accountable to working out and going to the gym because I don’t want to waste my money.

Workout with a friend or partner. Personal trainers cost money, so not everyone can afford to hire one. There is a social component to the gym. If you find a partner to workout with, it makes working out more pleasurable and something you look forward to each time you go.

Stay patient and stick with it. You are going to have good days and bad days in your return to working out. Just stay patient and stick with it. Once you start to see and feel the gains from working out, you will be glad you decided to return to working out despite the challenges of MS.