Exercise Won't Prevent MS, Study Finds

September 30, 2016
Gale Scott

An analysis of data in the Nurses' Health Study found that women who exercised regularly were just as likely as peers who did not to get multiple sclerosis. Exercise is still helpful in managing symptoms.

Exercise does not appear to reduce a woman’s risk of developing multiple sclerosis, Harvard researchers found in a large new study.

Writing in the September 28, 2016, online issue of Neurology study author Kassandra Munger, ScD, of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA, said previous studies had shown conflicting results with some reaching a conclusion that women who exercised were less likely to get MS.

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“Our did not provide evidence to support it.”

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Researchers evaluated data on more than 193,000 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health and Nurses’ Health II and were followed for up to 20 years. The women completed regular questionnaires about their physical activity and also about their activity as teens and young adults.

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During the , 341 women developed MS.

Researchers calculated the total hours of physical activity per week, took into account the type of exercise for each woman and adjusted for age, ethnicity, smoking, supplemental vitamin D, place of residence at age 15 and body mass index at age 18.

“Overall, there was no consistent association of exercise at any age and MS,” Munger said. “Exercise has been shown to be beneficial to people with the disease, but it seems unlikely that exercise protects against the risk of developing MS.”

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The was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Commenting on the research in an editorial, Lauren Krupp, MD director of NYU Langone’s Multiple Sclerosis Comprehensive Care Center in New York, NY said the findings are important.

“Although exercise has an important role in preventing certain cardiac and vascular disorders, what’s going on in MS is a little different,” Krupp wrote, “However, exercise is extremely important in managing MS symptoms.”

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