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Training Considerations for MS

People who suffer from Multiple Sclerosis already have a lot of challenges to contend with in their lives. Whereas many people already find excuses and ways to avoid hitting the gym, it’s that much harder for those with chronic conditions to get in a good workout. This is an area in which a personal trainer can become an effective key to a patient’s disease management strategy.

Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, is a disease of the central nervous system. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society states that MS is unpredictable and often causes the disabling of the central nervous system. As of now, the disease’s cause is still unknown. It is also impossible to predict the escalation and severity of the disease on the patient over time. It requires special attention from a physician to diagnose, and is often missed on routine exams until more extreme symptoms begin to come forward.

Quality of Life

One of the most unfortunate aspects of the disease is its tendency to steadily inhibit motor function and control of the extremities. There are, in many cases, issues with balance, strength and endurance and loss of autonomy, which can be especially troubling.

This also means that many people suffering from MS have an incredibly difficult time finding the right exercise regimen. As any fitness professional knows, exercise has a huge effect on every vital system of the body. It increases brain activity, cardiovascular efficiency, immune response as well as mental well-being.

Because of the positive impact exercise offers, MS patients are much better off when they have an avenue to fitness. But this can be incredibly challenging when fatigue sets in, balance issues, or basic motor function start to decline. So just what can a fitness professional offer this population?

A Way Forward

As many personal trainers can attest to, it’s hard enough to get people to workout and stick to a plan when completely healthy. Throwing in a chronic condition makes it that much more difficult. But it also means that these individuals have that much more to gain. Fighting a disease like MS takes every ounce of strength and it can be very difficult for an individual to exercise while trying to manage their treatment schedule. That’s where personal trainers and group fitness instructors can make a great difference.

What fitness professionals offer is a way forward — a way to extract a little more energy and to derive a little more enjoyment out of life.


Before a trainer gets started working with any client, it’s essential that they get the approval of their client’s doctor. This can also be a source of powerful information for the trainer to find out what the doctor’s recommendations are in terms of safety.

Does the client need to be especially mindful of balance issues? Are they having a particularly difficult time with certain parts of the body? These are the types of questions that a fitness professional needs to have in order to ensure they are responsibly working with a client who suffers from MS.

Take a Varied Approach

There are several different approaches that trainers can take when training clients with MS. Due to the unpredictable nature of the disease, it is often advisable to stick to equipment that allows the client to experience resistance without significant risk, should a body part experience a loss of functionality during the workout.

For this reason, and taking the severity of the condition into consideration, bodyweight exercises can be a potential hazard. If you have your clients participating in such exercises, make sure that you maintain 100 percent of your focus on the client at all times.

Learn to Love the Pool

One of the best approaches that you can take for safely training clients who suffer from MS is getting them into the pool. In aquatics, balance and muscle failure are less of a problem as the body’s natural buoyancy in water will protect them from any major crashes.

This also opens the door for a great opportunity to hold small classes with appropriate supervision offering those suffering with MS the ability to experience a group fitness class. This can be incredibly effective in terms of camaraderie and encouragement, as well as fostering a positive training environment.

Finding the Right Balance

At the end of the day, providing a much needed service to people who really stand to gain from fitness allows you, the fitness trainer,an opportunity to become an essential part of the individual’s treatment team and to help your clients to get the most out of life. Exercise is a key ingredient to living long and living well. This is especially the case for those facing long-term treatments for chronic health conditions. Taking the time to craft an individual program that will maximize individual strengths while keeping them as safe as possible will make for an important addition to treatment.

Visit the FitFixNow blog for more articles from Jane Curth.

Jane Curth is the co-founder and CEO of FitFixNow. Helping people on their wellness journey is her passion; Jane has helped clients and students with their diet and fitness struggles for over 20 years.

MFN Industry Expert