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Impact of a 12-Week Exercise Intervention on Fatigue, Depression, Cognition

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  • Impact of a 12-Week Exercise Intervention on Fatigue, Depression, Cognition

    Impact of a 12-Week Exercise Intervention on Symptoms of Fatigue, Depressed Mood, and Perceived and Objective Cognitive Impairment in Multiple Sclerosis



    Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disorder of the central nervous system. MS symptoms are variable, and in addition to sensory and motor symptoms, individuals with MS are susceptible to fatigue, depressed mood, and cognitive impairment. Behavioural strategies to help with symptom management are needed. Physical activity has shown promise in managing other neurological disorders including dementia and stroke (e.g., Jang et al., 2017; Svensson et al., 2015), and it has been suggested that physical activity may slow the progression of MS (Sa, 2014).


    The objective of the current study was to investigate the impact of a 12-week speeded walking exercise intervention on MS symptoms of fatigue, depressed mood, and perceived and objective cognitive impairment.


    Individuals with MS underwent a 12-week speeded walking intervention, 3 times per week, based off an existing randomized control trial (Sandroff et al., 2016). Participants completed pre- and post- intervention self-report questionnaires and neuropsychological testing to assess fatigue, mood, and perceived and objective cognitive functioning. Measures included the following: Modified Fatigue Impact Scale (MFIS; Fisk et al., 1994), Beck Depression Inventory, 2nd edition (BDI-2; Beck et al., 1988), Patient Deficit Questionnaire (PDQ; Ritvo et al., 1997), Symbol Digit Modalities Test (SDMT; Parmenter et al., 2007), Trail Making Test (Trails; Reitan, 1958), and Digit Span (Jensen & Figueroa, 1975). Pre- and post- intervention descriptive and statistical analyses were performed in RStudio.


    10 females and 3 males with relapsing-remitting MS were included in the analysis (mean age= 58.76 11.07 years; mean education= 15.15 2.08 years). Following the exercise intervention, individuals with MS endorsed fewer symptoms of fatigue (p<0.01), but not depressed mood (BDI-2 p=.11). They also reported fewer perceived problems with prospective memory (PDQ p=.02), but not attention (p=.60), retrospective memory (p=.81), or planning (p=.52). Neuropsychological testing indicated that individuals performed significantly better on the SDMT (p<0.01), but not Trails A (p=.44), Trails B (p=.51), or Digit Span. (p=.16).


    Individuals with MS reported fewer problems with fatigue, fewer perceived prospective memory problems, and performed significantly better on a measure of information processing speed after a 12-week exercise intervention. Physical activity holds promise for managing some symptoms of MS. Future research should be expanded to include individuals with progressive forms of MS.

    Chantel D Mayo
    University of Victoria
    Colleen Lacey
    University of Victoria
    Jodie R Gawryluk
    University of Victoria
    Dave Bexfield