Background: Persons with multiple sclerosis (PwMS) report impaired sexual function, and this is particularly prevalent and burdensome for females with MS. The present study included a randomized controlled trial (RCT) design and examined the effect of aquatic exercise training on sexual function among females with MS.
Methods: The sample consisted of 60 married female PwMS (mean age: 37.68 years; median EDSS: 1.75) who were randomly assigned into one of the following conditions: aquatic exercise twice a week (2x/w); aquatic exercise three times a week (3x/w); active control condition (ACC). Participants completed questionnaires regarding sexual function (desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, pain), symptoms of depression, sleep complaints, fatigue, and couple satisfaction before and after the 8-week study period.
Results: The interventions had significant and positive effects on the overall score of sexual function (p < .001, ηρ2 = .35), all subscales (desire (p = .002, 2 = .20), arousal (p = .01, 2 =.15), lubrication (p = .011, 2 = .15), orgasm (p = .007, 2 = .16), satisfaction (p = .023, 2 = .13), pain (p = .02, 2 = .13)) and depression (p =.002, 2 = .20).The interventions had no significant and positive effects on fatigue (p = .31, 2 = .04) sleep complaints (p = .079, 2= .087), and couple satisfaction (p = .69, 2 = .01) compared with the active control condition.
Conclusions: Aquatic exercise training may improve sexual function among female PwMS, but this requires further examination using a large sample pre-screened for sexual dysfunction. If confirmed, the present findings are of clinical and practical importance for females with MS.
Keywords: Aquatic exercising; Couple satisfaction; Depression; Fatigue; Multiple sclerosis; Sexual function; Sleep complaints.
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