Standing Up and getting Active with Multiple Sclerosis

 

Did you know that excessive sitting can be as detrimental for your health as smoking? Regardless of how much time you spend in physical activity or exercise, spending long periods of time in sitting is a problem. In fact, regularly sitting for long unbroken periods is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, stroke, obesity, depression and anxiety and early death… no matter how much you exercise.

People with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), especially in later stages, may have difficulties with balance and walking and so typically spend more time sitting than being active. Research has also found that people with MS tend to accumulate that time without interruptions in longer bouts. This may be for many reasons such as fatigue, pain, poor balance, weakness or difficulty walking.

If you have had MS for some time, or you’re out of the habit of exercising, starting an exercise regime can seem daunting and unachievable.

The good news? By simply starting to interrupt sitting with an activity, regardless of intensity, we can improve health outcomes. Regularly changing posture, fidgeting, standing, walking on the spot (with support if necessary) or taking brief walks are all non-exercise activities that can be used to start to break up sitting.  

Recent studies such as the ‘Standing up in MS’ (SUMS) trial in the UK have shown that even people with more advanced MS showed improvements in strength and functional ability with regular supported standing. (Freeman et al. 2019). It may also improve other problems such as spasms, pain, incontinence and constipation. Participants also reported that regular standing helped them feel better and ‘more like themselves’.

If you want more detail on the findings of this study and the benefits of regular standing for people with MS, you can visit https://Plymouth.ac.uk/research/sums/shy-standing-is-important-for-people-with-ms

How to get started: Tips and tricks!


  1. Start paying attention to how much time you spend sitting or lying during your day. To help with this, you can use the pedometer function on your phone or keep a journal.
  2. Take time to consider why you spend so much time sitting. Is it because you’re fatigued? Or scared of falling? Or bored?
  3. Speak to your physio or occupational therapist about how you can address the things that put you off moving more and how to increase your physical across the day. These may include ways to improve sleep, manage fatigue and improve balance.
  4. Seek out opportunities to move (little and often) throughout the day – even little opportunities can accumulate and make a difference!
  5. Use reminders on your phone or applications such as ‘Stand up!’ to remind you to move regularly. Lots of phone applications have been developed for just this purpose!
  6. Make allies of your family and friends – how can they help?
  7. Try and make it fun – crank up the music and involve others where possible!
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