Balance. Some exercises can improve balance. For example, you can use balance boards, Swiss balls, and variable surfaces to assist in balance training. However, balance problems are individual, and a balance training program should be designed by your healthcare professional to address your specific needs and maximize safety. A study evaluating a structured Awareness through Movement program to improve balance demonstrated improvements in balance, balance confidence, and self-efficacy.
Yoga. Yoga has become a very popular activity for many people. Yoga for people with MS can be beneficial in improving overall flexibility and body awareness. In addition, yoga is performed at the level of the participant, so fatigue and balance problems can be minimized. Yoga can be performed through organized classes or by using video tapes to guide you through the different poses. When researching yoga classes, discuss with the instructor any limitations you may have and how they will be accommodated during the class. Many MS clinics and local chapters of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society offer yoga classes specifically for people with MS.
Pilates. The Pilates method has become a very popular form of physical activity. The Pilates method consists of specific body movements in which the individual is focused on the muscles being used. Pilates proponents claim increased benefits with strength and flexibility. Individuals with MS have reported that the Pilates method is helpful and allows them to participate in activity without increasing fatigue or core body temperature. An individual should receive training from a trained instructor before continuing on a home program.
Hydrotherapy. Hydrotherapy and water exercise can be an excellent form of activity for people with MS. In the buoyancy of water, you can perform many activities you may not be able to perform on land, and in the coolness of water, you usually will not become overheated. It is important to be aware of water temperature when choosing a pool for a hydrotherapy program. A temperature of approximately 80 to 84 degrees Farenheit is most often recommended. However, you may find that a slightly higher or cooler temperature works best for you. Aquatic exercises can include stretching, strengthening, aerobic, balance, and relax ation. Hydrotherapy includes specific techniques, usually facilitated by a trained aquatics instructor, which incorporate a variety of functional activities.
T'ai chi. T'ai chi is another popular activity, which consists of slow, rhythmic body movements. Research has shown that tai chi does increase strength and flexibility and may also improve fatigue. T'ai chi is often performed as part of a group, which may provide significant benefits with socialization. Many people with MS feel that t'ai chi is effective in improving balance and mobility and reducing stiffness. It may be an effective form of activity for people with MS, but individuals should receive training from an individual trained in working with people with disabilities.
Therapeutic horseback riding or hip-potherapy. Hippotherapy and therapeutic horseback riding are activities often used along with physical therapy. Hippotherapy and therapeutic horseback riding are very popular techniques for the pediatric population, but have become more popular with adult neurological populations, such as those with MS. Hippotherapy is felt to be beneficial for reducing spasticity and improving balance, and other movement dysfunctions. Individuals with MS report significant physical and psychological benefit with hippotherapy and therapeutic horseback riding. The majority of the studies have been done with children with cerebral palsy, but many of the same benefits may be seen for people with MS.
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