A study done earlier this year lead by Ruchika Shaurya Prakash, assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University and colleagues Robert Motl and Arthur Kramer of the University of Illinois, as well as Erin Snook of the University of Massachusetts, finds that Aerobic Fitness helps protect brains of Multiple Sclerosis Patients. The study conducted that fitter MS patients showed lesser lesions in the brain compared to their less fitter counterparts. This led them to believe that fitness plays a vital role in protecting the brain from deteriorating.
“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. “As a result, these fitter patients actually show better performance on tasks that measure processing speed.”
The study found that fitness in multiple sclerosis patients was associated with larger volume of gray matter, accounting for about 20 percent of the volume in gray matter. That’s important, Prakash said, because gray matter is linked to brain processing skills.
The study compares white and gray matter of MS patients to healthy test objects as well as making a comparison between fitter and less fitter MS patients.
Prakash noted that other researchers have found that exercise promotes the production of nerve growth factors, proteins which are important for the growth and maintenance of neurs in the brain. “Our hypothesis is that aerobic exercise enhances these nerve growth factors in MS patients, which increases the volume of the gray matter and increases the integrity of the white matter,” she said. “As a result there is an improvement in cognitive function.”
“For a long time, MS patients were told not to exercise because there was a fear it could exacerbate their symptoms,” she said. “But we’re finding that if MS patients exercise in a controlled setting, it can actually help them with their cognitive function.”
Another GREAT reason for MS patients to do exercise moderately. It doesn’t have to be something extreme (in most cases it shouldn’t) but it’s obviously beneficial to at least try to do something fitness wise.
Here is also some additional advice/information from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
My hordes of Neurologists I have been dealing with the past three years were always quite puzzled by how little my brain was affected by the illness, as of yet I don’t have any kind of lesion in my brain that would be worth being worried about. I was always quite fit and grew up with very active and sporty parents so my know-it-all-ness was always thinking that it MUST have something to do with me being very active as long as I can remember. After reading the study I think I really owe them even more thanks then I thought I already would..