Background: Pilates is a series of exercises based on whole-body movement and may improve mobility in people with multiple sclerosis (MS). The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of Pilates on walking performance in people with MS.
Methods: 30 individuals with MS who were not restricted to a wheelchair or scooter (Patient-Determined Disease Steps scale score <7) were randomized to receive Pilates (twice weekly) and massage therapy (once weekly) or once-weekly massage therapy only (control group). The Pilates was delivered in a group setting (five to ten participants per session). The primary outcome was change in walking performance (6-Minute Walk Test) after 12 weeks. Secondary outcomes included functional ability (Timed Up and Go test), balance (Fullerton Advanced Balance Scale), flexibility (sit and reach test), body composition (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry), core endurance (plank-hold test), and muscle strength and voluntary activation (quadriceps). Intention-to-treat analysis was performed using a two-factor repeated-measures analysis of variance.
Results: Walking distance increased by a mean (SD) of 52.4 (40.2) m in the Pilates group versus 15.0 (34.1) m in the control group (group × time, P = .01). Mean (SD) time to complete the Timed Up and Go test decreased by 1.5 (2.8) seconds in the Pilates group versus an increase of 0.3 (0.9) seconds in the control group (group × time, P = .03). There were no other significant differences between groups over time.
Conclusions: Pilates improved walking performance and functional ability in persons with MS and is a viable exercise option to help manage the disease.