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Pilates to improve symptoms of anxiety, depression, and fatigue in MSers

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  • Pilates to improve symptoms of anxiety, depression, and fatigue in MSers

    Psychology of Sport and Exercise
    Available online 8 August 2019

    The feasibility of Pilates to improve symptoms of anxiety, depression, and fatigue among people with Multiple Sclerosis: An eight-week randomized controlled pilot trial

    Karl M. Fleming, et al

    •Seventeen women with MS randomized to supervised or home-based Pilates or wait list.

    •Aspects of feasibility, anxiety, depression, and fatigue assessed across 8-week trial.

    •No home-based or wait-list participant withdrew, and no adverse events were reported.

    •Pilates compliance (>80%) and outcome assessment completion (100%) was high.

    •Home-based Pilates appears to be feasible and acceptable for women with MS.


    Evidence supports benefits of exercise for mental health among people with Multiple Sclerosis (PwMS). However, non-traditional exercise modes like Pilates remain understudied. This eight-week randomized pilot trial explored indicators of feasibility of supervised or home-based Pilates compared to wait-list control on mental health outcomes among PwMS.

    The pilot trial took place in Limerick (August to October 2017). We recruited through the MS Society of Ireland Midwest region. Seventeen females (49.8 ± 8.4 y) were randomized to two weekly 60-min supervised or home-based Pilates sessions guided by a DVD, or wait-list control. Feasibility relative to recruitment, retention, compliance, and presence/absence of adverse events was examined. Well-validated questionnaires assessed symptoms of anxiety, depression, and fatigue. Standardized mean differences and Hedges’ d were calculated to explore magnitude of change in response to Pilates compared to wait-list.

    Nineteen participants registered interest. Following screening, 17 met inclusion criteria and accepted randomization. Attrition was 40% for supervised Pilates; no home-based or wait-list participant withdrew. Pilates compliance was >80%. No adverse events were reported. Compared to wait-list, home-based Pilates scores were significantly lower for feelings of depressed mood at weeks 4, 6, and 8 (d = 0.47–1.25; all p ≤ 0.02), physical symptoms of fatigue at weeks 4 and 8 (d = 0.82–0.84; all p ≤ 0.005), and total fatigue at weeks 4 and 8 (d = 0.57–0.60; all p ≤ 0.02).

    Findings support the feasibility of home-based Pilates to improve mental health outcomes among women with MS with minimal-to-mild mobility disability. Results support development of future larger home-based randomized controlled trials to better understand Pilates’ effects.
    Dave Bexfield