The Vitality Multiple Sclerosis Fitness Program

Excercise in pool; wheelchair access

The aquatic environment provides buoyancy and support that eases movement in participants with decreased strength and balance. Tools and equipment specifically designed for an aquatic environment enhance the aquatic programs.

The Multiple Sclerosis Fitness Program is designed so that the potential obstacles to exercise can be identified, critically evaluated, then eliminated or modified.

Previously, individuals with multiple sclerosis were advised to avoid exercise because of excessive fatigue, fear of aggravating the condition, and heat sensitivity. However, new research suggests that a properly designed and implemented exercise program that is modified based on symptoms can significantly improve the overall cardiovascular fitness, strength, balance and psychological well being of participants with multiple sclerosis.

Depending on the functional ability of the individual, exercising at home or in a fitness facility may or may not be appropriate. Fitness facilities are unlikely to have professionals trained in exercise for multiple sclerosis. Resources may be limited for those with special needs.

For the Novice and Seasoned Exerciser

Like the arthritis programs, the Vitality multiple sclerosis exercise programs are individually developed by the professional staff based on the person’s functional ability, limitations, and goals as well as the medical director’s recommendations. The program is designed for both novices and seasoned exercisers. The program also addresses specific problems such as balance, coordination, and heat sensitivity, as well as the interaction of muscular strength, fatigue, and endurance. It is designed to incorporate activity and rest while avoiding overuse, which can increase fatigue and its effects. Aquatic exercise classes specifically designed for participants with MS are an important component of the MS program. Aquatic exercise has been demonstrated to be effective with individuals who have greater motor deficits since the body weight is supported and people can exercise even if they are very weak or have poor balance. Benefits of aquatic exercise include improved flexibility, posture, muscle tone, balance and coordination.

Initial Assessment

During the initial assessment, a staff member will review the participant’s medical history including current activity level, limitations, occupational, leisure time activities and the specific effect of MS on physical abilities such as ambulation, balance, coordination, and strength. This information will be combined with the individual’s personal goals and their physician's recommendation to create an individualized exercise program. Based on the information gathered, participants of this program may exercise in the aquatics or land classes.

Research Highlights

Current Vitality research focuses on physiological and quality of life outcomes in participants with MS who have completed a 16-week aquatic program. The research is investigating whether regular aquatic exercise improves walking distance, static and dynamic balance, upper and lower body strength and quality of life in MS participants with a wide variety of physical impairments.

CONTACT US

If you, or someone you know, is interested in enrolling in a Vitality program or would simply like to learn more, please call:

Carol Sames, PhD,
Vitality Program Director
315-464-9992 or
Upstate Connect 1-800-464-8668 (toll free).