Walking impairment in patients with multiple sclerosis: exercise training as a treatment option

Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2010 Nov 16;6:767-74. doi: 10.2147/NDT.S10480.


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease of the central nervous system that culminates in the progression of physical and cognitive disability over time. Walking impairment is a ubiquitous feature of MS and a sentinel characteristic of the later or advanced stages of the disease. This paper presents a conceptual rationale along with empirical evidence for exercise training as a rehabilitation approach for managing walking impairment and improving walking function in persons with MS. Conceptually, MS is associated with a decrease in physical activity, which, in turn, can result in deconditioning across multiple domains of physiological functioning. The resulting deconditioning feeds back and further drives physical inactivity until a threshold is reached that likely initiates the progression of walking impairment in MS. Empirically, physical activity and exercise training have been associated with beneficial effects on walking function in persons with MS. This is based on cross-sectional, longitudinal, and experimental research that included diversity in the breadth of measures of walking, persons with MS, and exercise/physical activity characteristics. Of particular importance, future researchers might consider examining the combinatory effects of exercise training plus pharmacological agents on walking mobility in MS. Collectively, exercise training and physical activity might hold significant potential for the management of progressive mobility disability in MS.

Keywords: exercise; mobility; movement; physical activity; walking.