Resistance Training Shows Positive Physical, Neurological Effects on MS Patients


The results of 2 studies determined that resistance training can improve lower limb function and cortical thickness in MS patients.

Felipe Aidar, MS, Multiple Sclerosis

Resistance training regimens may be able to slow the progression of multiple sclerosis’s (MS) effects on physical limitations of patients with the condition, according to new data.

Led by Felipe J Aidar (pictured), PhD, of the department of physical education at the Federal University of Sergipe in Sergipe, Brazil, the study examined 2 groups of 23 total patients that were divided based on the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) in order to determine the effect of resistance training on MS patients. They were split into an experimental group (EG) of 11 patients and a control group (CG) of 12 patients.

The EG consisted of 18.2% of patients with EDSS scores of 0 to 3.0, 72.8% with scores of 3.5 to 5.5, and 9.1% with scores of 6.0 to 7.5. The CG had 25.0% with scores of 0 to 3.0, 58.3% with scores of 3.5 to 5.5, and 16.7% with scores of 6.0 to 7.5.

During the 12 weeks of the study, the EG underwent resistance training, including a timed up-and-go test, a timed 7.62-meter walk, a sit-to-stand test, and the Berg balance test, all used to measure the function and strength of lower limbs.

At baseline, the was no apparent difference between the 2 groups, however, at the 12-week mark, significant differences were found between the EG and CG in the up-and-go test (p=0.021), the timed 7.62-meter walk (p=0.027), the sit-to-stand test (p=0.017) and the Berg balance test (p=0.039).

Additionally, a second study from earlier this year, led by Tue Kjølhede, MSc, PhD, from Aarhus University in Denmark, confirmed the impact resistance training can have on MS patients. It evaluated the effects of progressive resistance training on MS patients, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and clinical measures to determine the effects.

Over 24 weeks, the study included 2 groups: a training group of 18 patients who underwent 24 weeks of resistance training followed by self-guided physical activity, and a waitlist group of 17 patients who remained in their habitual lifestyle for 24 weeks followed by resistance training.

Kjølhede’s study found that, while the EDSS scores, lesion loads, and global brain volumes did not change between the training and waitlist group, there was a change in percentage brain volume change (PBVC) and cortical thickness. After utilizing MRI, 19 of 74 investigated cortical regions of the brain saw higher absolute cortical thickness values.

The findings of these 2 studies suggest that resistance training can improve both lower limb function and have a sort of neuroprotective, or neuroregenerative, effect in patients with relapsing-remitting MS.

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