Randomised controlled pilot trial of an exercise plus behaviour change intervention in people with multiple sclerosis: the Step it Up study

BMJ Open. 2017 Oct 12;7(10):e016336. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-016336.


Objective: To investigate feasibility of multiple sclerosis (MS) exercise guidelines for inactive people with MS (PwMS) and to examine preliminary efficacy for walking. To investigate effect of augmenting that intervention with education based on social cognitive theory (SCT).

Design: Pilot multicentre, double-blind, randomised, parallel, controlled trial.

Setting: Community-delivered programme.

Participants: Sixty-five physically inactive PwMS walked independently, scored 0-3 on the Patient Determined Disease Steps Scale, had no MS relapse or change in MS medication in 12 weeks.

Interventions: 10-week exercise plus SCT education (SCT) compared with exercise plus attention control education (CON).

Outcome measures: Six-Minute Walk Test (6MWT), Timed Up and Go (TUG) test and Multiple Sclerosis Walking Scale-12 (MSWS-12).

Results: 174 expressed interest, 92 were eligible and 65 enrolled (SCT, n=32; CON, n=33). The intervention was feasible and delivered as intended. 68% of SCT group and 50% of control group met the exercise guidelines after intervention. Using linear mixed effects models, intention-to-treat basis, there was insufficient evidence for difference between the groups over the trial (6MWT, p=0.30; TUG, p=0.4; MSWS-12, p=0.8). Using secondary analysis of a cohort with data for≥3 assessments (SCT, n=21; CON, n=20), there was significant treatment effect favouring the intervention group (p=0.04) with mean effect for 6MWT 39.0 m (95% CI 2.26 to 75.73) at 12 weeks and 40.0 m (95% CI 2.3 to 77.8) at 36 weeks. Both groups improved significantly in 6MWT following 10-week intervention (SCT, mean ∆=83.02, SD=60.1, p≤0.01; CON, mean ∆=56.92, SD=73.5, p≤0.01), TUG (SCT, ∆=-0.70, SD=1.25, p≤0.01; CON, ∆=-0.54, SD=0.95, p≤0.01) and MSWS-12 (SCT, ∆=-8.03, SD=16.18, p=0.02; CON, ∆=-0.86, SD=18.74, p=0.81).

Conclusions: A 10-week exercise programme based on the MS exercise guidelines for improving walking in previously inactive PwMS was feasible. There is marginal evidence of a treatment effect in favour of the exercise plus SCT intervention at 12 and 36 weeks.

Trial registration number: NCT02301442; Results.

Keywords: behaviour change; exercise; multiple sclerosis; social cognitive theory; walking mobility.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavior Therapy*
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mobility Limitation
  • Multiple Sclerosis / physiopathology
  • Multiple Sclerosis / rehabilitation*
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Walk Test
  • Walking

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02301442