Objective: A pilot study to investigate the effect of aerobic exercise on the mobility and function of people with moderate disability multiple sclerosis (MS).
Design: A small group, comparative, pre- and post-intervention study.
Setting: A gymnasium within a general hospital.
Subjects: Eight subjects, all female, average age 45 years (range 33-61) with moderate disability MS (Kurtzke scale 4-6), were recruited; six completed the study.
Intervention: Intervention consisted of bi-weekly sessions of 30 min cycling on a static bike at their maximal level of exertion for 12 weeks.
Main measures: The stability of each individual's condition was established pre-intervention using three baseline assessments over two weeks. A battery of tests (the 10-metre and 6-min walk tests, the Functional Reach, the Gulick and the Guys Neurological Disability Scale) were completed pre and post intervention. Potential negative effects were recorded on the Fatigue Severity Scale and the Modified Ashworth Scale. An independent rater completed assessments post intervention. Inter-rater reliability was found to be acceptable.
Results: Comparisons pre and post intervention (Wilcoxon signed ranked test) showed significant improvement on the Guys Neurological Disability Scale (p = 0.026), with the mean score reducing from 13 to 9, and the 6-min walk test (p = 0.046), with the mean distance increasing from 200 m to 261 m. Other measures failed to reach significance.
Conclusions: Findings from this pilot study suggest overall disability and mobility improved with the aerobic training. A positive treatment effect in this small study suggests the need for a larger trial. Knowledge of how to establish predictive heart rate and how to monitor the effects of cycling with people with MS will be used to inform future clinical trials.