Multiple Sclerosis Disease Activity Reduced with Physical Activity

MS patients who participate in physical activity more likely to have lower overall amount of brain lesions.

MS patients who participate in physical activity more likely to have lower overall amount of brain lesions.

Exercising may reduce disease activity for pediatric patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to the results of a study published in Neurology.

Researchers from Canada studied 110 patients in order to evaluate the association between physical activity and MS disease activity, depression, and fatigue in the patient population. There were 79 patients with monophasic acquired demyelinating syndrome (mono-ADS) and 31 MS patients, all aged 5 through 18 years.

The patients were administered the PedsQL Multidimensional Fatigue Scale, Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale, and Godin Leisure Time Exercise Questionnaire. Some of the participants also underwent a whole brain and T2 lesion volume through quantitative MRI analysis.

“Up to three-quarters of children with MS experience depression, tiredness, or memory and thinking impairment,” study author E. Ann Yeh, MD, with The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, Associate Professor at the University of Toronto in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, explained in a press release. “Our research is important since little is known regarding how lifestyle behaviors may affect the disease.”

About half (45%) of the pediatric patients with MS reported participating in any strenuous physical activity, the researchers found. This was in contrast to 82% of other children.

For the MS patients who did participate in strenuous physical activity, they were more likely to have a lower overall amount of brain lesions when compared to MS children who did not do the strenuous activity. Those brain lesions, the researchers added, indicate disease activity.

The patients that participated in strenuous activity had a median of 0.46 cubic centimeter T2 lesions, compared to lesions 3.4 cubic centimeters for those without strenuous activity. The physical activity patients had an average of 0.5 relapses per year. The patients without activity had an average of 1 relapse per year, the researchers found.

Additionally, levels of tiredness and depression were higher in the children with MS compared to the other children examined in the analysis. There were no differences among the groups of children in brain volumes.

“These findings add to the possibility that physical activity may have a beneficial effect on the health of the brain,” concluded Yeh.

The researchers added that these results were the same after adjusting for the patients’ disease severity. Even though the cause and effect relationship between physical exercise and disease activity has not yet been determined, the authors say, there is a clear association between the two.