Just keep swimming
May 15, 2012 at 9:51am
In Finding Nemo, Dory the fish has a little song she sings, to keep Nemo from becoming too despondent...
When life gets you down, you know what you gotta do?
Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.
I had an interesting conversation with Dr. John Cooke at the Hubbard Foundation conference. It was good to catch up with him. We hadn't seen him in two years, since Jeff was up to Stanford for his one year testing. He asked how Jeff was doing, and to what did I credit his health after venoplasty. I told him that Jeff was much more fit now, then he was at his MS diagnosis. He was down 15 pounds, and his aerobic capabilities were great. He out paces me up the hills when we hike and bike, and is much more active in his daily life.
"That's great!" said Dr. Cooke. "He's keeping the blood flowing."
Later that day, in his presentation, Dr. Cooke discussed how the endothelium likes fast blood flow. Shear stress, or the stress caused by fast moving blood through our body, is good for our blood vessels. It keeps them open, and flowing.
You see, the body and brain respond to aerobic exercise in many ways that are being studied in the MS population. I know I don't have to tell you this---the terrible tragedy in MS is that as the disease progresses, your ability to move is shut down. It becomes a vicious cycle. Your disabilities increase, your ability to move decreases, your blood flow slows down, your pain and fatigue increase, your MS progresses.
I want to encourage you, like Dory, to find ways to just keep swimming. Find ways to move, everyday. It may not be pretty, but your heart and circulatory system need this. When Jeff was first diagnosed with MS, he had trouble walking. He started with an elliptical machine. He couldn't do very much, and his legs hurt...but he did it, as best he could. After venoplasty, he was able to get back on his bike. He started slowly, with street rides, and then progressed to mountain biking, as his balance and endurance increased. Every single day, he gets his heart pumping. And his veins are staying open, and his gray matter looks normal on MRI.
Here's some research to encourage you:
Highly fit multiple sclerosis patients perform significantly better on tests of cognitive function than similar less-fit patients, a new study shows.
In addition, MRI scans of the patients showed that the fitter MS patients showed less damage in parts of the brain that show deterioration as a result of MS, as well as a greater volume of vital gray matter.
"We found that aerobic fitness has a protective effect on parts of the brain that are most affected by multiple sclerosis," said Ruchika Shaurya Prakash, lead author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University.
Of course, with an MS diagnosis, there are many things to consider before beginning a new exercise program, and seeing your doctor is a must.
Since some people with multiple sclerosis notice an increase in symptoms when their body becomes overheated—a condition known as thermosensitivity—avoid exercising outside during the hottest time of the day. Instead, exercise before 10 a.m. or after 2 p.m., or in a cool room. Drink plenty of cool liquids and always listen to your body. Slow down or stop exercising if you notice any new symptoms or your symptoms worsening. “Pre-cooling” by immersing your lower body in a cool bath for 30 minutes before exercising may also reduce the risk of becoming overheated.
Always check with your doctor before starting an exercise program; physical therapists experienced with MS can help design and adapt exercise as your abilities and symptoms change.
Best Multiple Sclerosis Exercises When choosing an exercise program consider your interests, fitness level, and expectations. To stay motivated, choose an exercise that you enjoy. Swimming and water aerobics provide overall fitness while keeping the body cool. Gentle to moderate yoga that emphasizes stretching, breathing, and being aware of your body followed by relaxation is another good choice, as is Tai Chi, which offers slow gentle movements. Both yoga and Tai Chi can be done sitting in a chair.
If you have access to physical therapy, or exercise programs for people with disabilities, please take advantage of them. Find ways to move every single day.
If CCSVI and the cardiovascular factor is as big a part of MS progression as we're learning in new research---it is vitally important to stay in motion.
Just keep swimming,
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