Purpose: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic progressive autoimmune disease impacting both body and mind. Typically, patients with MS report fatigue, depression, and paresthesia. Standard treatment consists of immune modulatory medication, though there is growing evidence that exercising programs have a positive influence on fatigue and psychological symptoms such as depression. We tested the hypothesis that, in addition to the standard immune regulatory medication, either yoga or aquatic exercise can ameliorate both fatigue and depression, and we examined whether these interventions also influence paresthesia compared with a nonexercise control condition.
Methods: Fifty-four women with MS (mean age: M = 33.94 yr, SD = 6.92) were randomly assigned to one of the following conditions: yoga, aquatic exercise, or nonexercise control. Their existing immune modulatory therapy remained unchanged. Participants completed questionnaires covering symptoms of fatigue, depression, and paresthesia, both at baseline and on completion of the study 8 wk later.
Results: Compared with the nonexercise control condition and over time, fatigue, depression, and paresthesia decreased significantly in the yoga and aquatic exercise groups. On study completion, the likelihood of reporting moderate to severe depression was 35-fold higher in the nonexercise control condition than in the intervention conditions (yoga and aquatic exercising values collapsed).
Conclusion: The pattern of results suggests that for females with MS and treated with standard immune regulatory medication, exercise training programs such as yoga and aquatic exercising positively impact on core symptoms of MS, namely, fatigue, depression, and paresthesia. Exercise training programs should be considered in the future as possible complements to standard treatments.