Pilates can help mobility and balance
Pilates is a popular method of exercise that helps to strengthen your core muscles and improves flexibility and posture. But it’s only now that researchers have looked at whether it can provide some benefit in people with multiple sclerosis (MS) (Marandi and colleagues. Int J Prev Med 2013;4]suppl 1]:S110-117).
The study included women who had been living with MS for an average of eight years. For those in the Pilates group, the schedule was three 1-hour sessions per week for 12 weeks. At the end of the three months, mobility and balance were tested with the Timed Up and Go (TUG) test (see below). This test is pretty much what the name says: people sitting in a chair are asked to get up, walk three metres (10 feet), return and sit down again. The amount of time it takes to make the round-trip is a good measure of mobility and balance. In people with no impairments, it usually takes about 6-10 seconds, and a little longer in older individuals. If it takes longer than 14 seconds, it means that you may be prone to falls. Over 20 seconds generally indicates that a walking aid is needed.
TUG times were significantly better for the women who completed the Pilates program. An important gain was seen in dynamic balance, i.e. balancing ability while in motion. This is needed to remain steady on your feet and to guard against falling.
A wide variety of exercises have been shown to improve muscle strength and walking ability in people with MS. Kickboxing has been shown to work (Jackson and colleagues. J Neurol Phys Ther 2012;36:131-137). If that sounds too high-impact, interacting with your Wii games console can also provide some benefit (Nilsagard and colleagues. Mult Scler 2013;19:209-216). The best choice of exercise will be the one that you enjoy enough to work into your regular schedule.
If you’d like to take the Timed Up and Go test yourself, the instructions are at: www.saskatoonhealthregion.ca/pdf/03_Timed%20Up%20and%20Go%20procedure.pdf.
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