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STUDY: Perceived benefits of physical activity for adults with MS

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  • STUDY: Perceived benefits of physical activity for adults with MS

    Perceived benefits of physical activity for adults with MS

    S. Ghahari, S. Forwell, V. Strehlau (Vancouver, CA)

    Background: Despite evidence that physical activity (PA) improves physical and mental health for people with multiple sclerosis (MS), a meta-analysis revealed that people with MS engage in less PA than those with other disabling conditions as well as the general population. In order to understand the reason for these differences, this study focused on the perceived benefits and drawbacks of PA.

    Objective: To describe the benefits and drawbacks of PA from the perspective of persons with MS.

    Methods: The self-administered International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) was mailed to 2482 MS patients with definite diagnosis visiting a BC MS Clinic in Canada. This questionnaire consists of Likert scale and multiple-choice questions (reported previously). In addition, respondents provided comments about their attitude and participation in PA. Comments were collated, coded, categorized and collapsed into themes.

    Results: A total of 1126 (45.4%) responded to the survey and responders did not differ demographically from non-responders. One third were employed (full or part time) and 457 (41%) were unemployed due to MS. A total of 534 (47.4%) provided comments resulting in 136 pages of data. Only two (0.4%) participants reported a drawback of PA, both experiencing worsening of symptoms following PA. Despite awareness of its benefit, one participant did not like to exercise. 334 participants (63%) commented on their view of the benefits of PA. These are described in 4 themes: 1) mental, physical, and cognitive benefits related to better everyday life and to emotional processing; 2) slowed MS course, decreased severity and duration of MS relapses and even facilitated recovery from relapses; 3) contribution to balanced life style; and 4) consequences for inactivity related to mental and physical limitations and reduced capacity to engage in desired activities. This paper will report the subcategories within each theme and provide a variety of examples.

    Conclusion: People with MS perceive that PA has few drawbacks and numerous positive benefits related to physical and mental well-being and to a balanced life style. They also reported on the consequences of inactivity. Given the overwhelming endorsement that PA has positive impact, it is clear that attitude and knowledge of persons with MS related to PA are consistent with the evidence of PA for MS. Future work should turn to the nature of PA programs and environmental issues related to PA for MS.
    Dave Bexfield