Physical activity and multiple sclerosis: new insights regarding inactivity

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ObjectivesThere is increasing recognition that physical activity has beneficial consequences among persons with multiple sclerosis (MS), but there is concern regarding the current degree of physical inactivity in this population because of limitations with previous research and increased recognition of health behaviors in MS. This study compared physical activity levels between large samples of persons with mild MS and matched controls using validated measures of physical activity.Materials and methodsThe sample included 77 cases of MS and 77 controls matched on age, height, weight, and gender. Physical activity was assessed using five measures, namely the Godin Leisure-Time Exercise Questionnaire (GLTEQ), International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ), and activity counts per day, step counts per day, and time spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) per day by accelerometry.ResultsThere were statistically significant differences between groups in accelerometer activity counts (t = −3.87, P = 0.0001), accelerometer step counts (t = −4.29, P = 0.0001), time spent in MVPA (t = −2.39, P = 0.01), GLTEQ scores (t = −3.83, P = 0.0001), and IPAQ scores (t = −3.42, P = 0.0001). The average effect size across all five measures was d = −0.59 and indicated that persons with MS overall were moderately less physically active than the matched controls.ConclusionsThe primary finding was a moderate reduction in physical activity among those with MS, but the magnitude was substantially smaller than reported in a published meta-analysis. Importantly, the degree of physical inactivity can likely be overcome through the delivery of behavioral interventions for increasing physical activity and this should translate into meaningful consequences for persons with MS.

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