Many folks know that running is a good way to stay healthy. You can do it right from your home, and it’s free (once you get some good running shoes). It’s nice to be outside while doing it, as it’s good for your mind and body and gives you vitamin D. But sometimes it’s hard to start. Some people hit the snooze button or get wet in the rain and give up. But for people with MS, there are extra challenges. Running with MS can make some days tough.
When dealing with MS, you might find yourself pondering some important questions.
Is running suitable for me? Can I still reap the rewards of running if I need to take it easy? What if I’m in pain even before I begin?
Rest assured, MS should never stand in the way of pursuing your passions and activities. Never.
Running and MS
There’s no doubt that regular physical activity plays a crucial role in managing MS. It has been proven to enhance cardiovascular fitness, strength, bladder and bowel function, reduce fatigue, boost mood, enhance cognitive function, increase bone density, and improve flexibility.
Research has demonstrated the safety and benefits of exercise in improving the quality of life and mitigating symptoms and progression of MS. An intriguing study published in Nutrients last November even suggests that lactate threshold training (training at or slightly above your lactate threshold heart rate), when combined with a balanced diet, might reduce inflammation, enhance neural plasticity (the brain’s ability to adapt), and provide neuroprotection for those with MS.
Exercise recommendations for individuals living with MS are quite similar to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which suggest 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week.
Running with Multiple Sclerosis and Symptoms That May Appear
When you have MS and love running, specific symptoms might discourage you from continuing. But it can be quite astonishing how even a mild exercise routine can begin to alleviate these symptoms.
MS fatigue often comes with common symptoms like limb heaviness and feeling just as tired in the morning as you did before sleep.
If you’re dealing with MS fatigue, it’s vital to start with brief, easy runs that mix jogging and walking to avoid straining your muscles too fast. Also, plan your runs (and any exercise) for times when you feel more energetic, even if it doesn’t seem like the usual time to run. Don’t worry if you can’t lace up your sneakers right after getting out of bed!
MS spasticity arises from nerve damage in the brain and spinal cord, affecting muscles throughout your body. This can make them feel heavy, rigid, and hard to move. Spasticity in your leg muscles can be a significant hurdle for running, and any muscle discomfort can be discouraging.
Despite MS spasticity, running is still an option. It’s essential to understand your symptoms and heed your body’s signals when it says exercise isn’t possible today. On better days, thorough stretching before running becomes crucial. Maintaining flexibility in your joints, muscles, and ligaments can reduce pain and make exercise feel more manageable.
Difficulty with walking, often referred to as gait problems, is a widespread mobility challenge in MS. These difficulties can be attributed to various factors:
- Balance: Balance issues can result in an unsteady and uncoordinated gait, known as ataxia.
- Sensory deficit: Some individuals with MS experience such severe numbness in their feet that they cannot sense the ground or locate their feet accurately. This is called sensory ataxia.
- Weakness: Weakness in the leg muscles can cause alterations in your usual walking pattern. These changes can lead to discomfort, further complicating your walking ability.
Tingling and Numbness
Experiencing ‘pins and needles’ is a sensation that can occur in any part of your body with MS. However, it’s especially frequent in the arms and legs, which can make running with multiple sclerosis seem impossible when you’re going through this symptom.
Maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle is important for managing MS symptoms. Interestingly, both walking and a leisurely jog at your preferred speed can provide relief from tingling sensations.
Many individuals discover that heat can worsen their MS symptoms. Therefore, when it’s warm outside, try scheduling your run during cooler parts of the day. You can use a cooling vest, cooling beads, or even simply pour water on yourself while running to help combat the heat.
While running, we all tend to get hot and sweaty. But if you’re especially sensitive to heat, consider running on an indoor treadmill. If your home has air conditioning, it’s easier to stay cool indoors, and you can stop whenever you’ve had enough without worrying about getting back home. Additionally, you can watch TV to keep yourself distracted while running!
What to Keep in Check when Running with MS
If you can manage the symptoms below, you can overcome MS and enjoy running anytime!
In certain cases of MS, becoming overheated can induce Uhthoff’s Phenomenon. This phenomenon can lead to vision problems when you get too warm. It may also bring back other MS symptoms you’ve encountered before. For instance, your vision might become blurry or distorted, your muscles might tense slightly, or you might experience tingling sensations. Surprisingly, even a minor half-degree rise in body temperature can trigger these heat-related symptoms.
You probably stretch after your run—hopefully every time. But what about the days when you don’t run? Are you still giving your muscles a good stretch? Remember, running doesn’t just benefit you in the moment; its effects last for days. So why limit stretching to those moments?
Stretching on your non-running days keeps your muscles flexible and helps alleviate any soreness. Plus, stretching is beneficial for MS, so it’s like getting a double dose of goodness. How often do you stretch your running muscles? Give daily stretching a try for a week and see how it improves your well-being.
Listen to Your Body if it Starts Saying “No”
Our bodies communicate with us all the time. They may not use words, but their messages are crystal clear.
- Running low on energy.
- Becoming too sedentary.
These are all ways our bodies say, “Stop.”
But what if we could listen to our bodies much earlier, when they’re still whispering instead of shouting? Our bodies give us subtle hints before they loudly protest. If we pay attention to these whispers, we can slow down and recover right then and there. If we continue to ignore our bodies until they protest, we might end up sidelined for days or even weeks. And if we persist in disregarding our bodies, we could even trigger an MS relapse.
Don’t Let MS Stop You From Running
Incorporating regular exercise, such as running, into your life with MS can bring immense benefits, improving your physical and mental well-being. From managing symptoms to enhancing overall health, it’s clear that exercise plays a vital role in your journey with multiple sclerosis. Remember to listen to your body, adapt your routine as needed, and embrace the subtle cues it provides to stay active and avoid setbacks. Don’t let MS hold you back; instead, let it inspire you to conquer new milestones and enjoy the many rewards that an active lifestyle can offer.