Finding the Best Activity for You
Depression and anxiety are very common symptoms that people living with MS can experience. 20% of those with MS experience these symptoms as compared to 5% of the general population. Meanwhile, living with MS is stressful. All of these factors can make it difficult to stay in a good mood. Thankfully, exercise is a proven way to feel better!
How to Use Exercise, Physical Activity, and Movement to Boost Your Mood
Exercise is a great way to boost your mood. Not only is it natural, but it’s completely flexible to fit your lifestyle. There’s a world of possibility, and you can find whatever works for you regardless of mobility challenges or symptom challenges. In some cases, exercise can be used as an antidepressant for those with mild to moderate depression. Exercise also pairs nicely with some other modes of disease management, like medications and talk therapy.
Why Movement Affects Mood
Exercise increases your heart rate and deepens your breathing to release chemicals, or endorphins, in body you feel good. In a similar way to pain medicines, endorphins attach to our nerve receptors, which can block pain (and boost your mood! The endorphins your body releases can even give you an “exercise high” after you work out, depending on the duration of the movement or activity. Some research suggests a 20-minute period of physical activity is an ideal duration for someone with MS. Once you get moving, you can feel the mood-boosting benefits for up to 45 minutes post-activity!
Choosing the Best Activity for MS
How do you choose which mode of exercise and movement is best for you? Any form of exercise can be helpful! Indoors or outdoors, individual or a group setting, competitive or personal. Choose the type of activity that’s enjoyable and safe for you! Aim to find something that makes you feel comfortable, happy, and accomplished.
There are MS resources that can guide you to a specific type of exercise like yoga, tai chi, dance, strengthening, or balance. Your physical therapist can help you navigate these resources and find an appropriate fit.
For the adventurous at heart, there are several adaptive sports and outdoor activities! Here are a few organizations that can help you get some sunshine, increase your vitamin D, and take in the fresh air while getting your exercise.
Not only can physical activity activate your “feel good” receptors, but you can also find community, comradery, friendship, and accountability by getting active in a group setting.
Keeping Up with Physical Activity
Here are a few tips to help you stay consistent with staying active.
First, find the mode of exercise that piques your interest and brings you joy. Next, find an accountability partner. This is someone who you can exercise with or someone to check in and to discuss your workouts with. An accountability partner can be key to helping you get into a new routine. Just be sure you find someone who understands your MS and all of the symptoms that come along for the ride.
Finally, focus on the benefits! Hold onto the “exercise high,” the feeling of fresh air in your lungs, and the gradual changes in how you feel. Once you experience exercise, you’ll surely want to stick with it!