Body metrics are associated with clinical, free-living, and self-report measures of mobility in a cohort of adults with obesity and multiple sclerosis

Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2023 Nov:79:105010. doi: 10.1016/j.msard.2023.105010. Epub 2023 Sep 15.


Background: Obesity is associated with multiple sclerosis (MS) onset and may contribute to more rapid disability accumulation. Whether obesity impacts mobility in MS is uncertain. Some studies find that obesity in MS is associated with poorer mobility; other studies find no relationship. Discrepant findings may be due to differences in measurement and methodology. In the present study, we employ a comprehensive battery of anthropometric and mobility measures in a sample of people with MS and obesity.

Methods: Participants with MS (N = 74) completed a battery of adiposity measurements (weight, height, waist circumference, and full body dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry [DXA] scans). They also completed validated clinical, free-living (accelerometry), and self-report measures of mobility. Spearman's Rho correlations were used to examine the associations between mobility and obesity measures with Benjamini and Hochberg correction for multiple comparisons. Multiple linear regression was used to examine if adiposity predicted mobility outcomes in people with MS when controlling for age and disease duration.

Results: The majority of participants (n = 70) were diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS and reported mild MS-related disability on the Patient Determined Disease Steps (M = 0.77, SD = 1.1). Median BMI was 35.8 (SD = 5.4). Higher percentage body fat (measured via DXA) was associated with poorer self-reported physical functioning (rs = -0.52, p <0.001), less moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (rs = -0.24, p = 0.04), and worse performance on the Six Minute Walk Test (6MWT; rs = -0.44, p <0.001), the Timed 25 Foot Walk (T25FW; rs = 0.45, p <0.001), and the Timed Up and Go test (TUG; rs = 0.35, p = .003). Higher BMI and waist-to-height ratio (WtHR) were associated with worse outcomes on the 6MWT (BMI; rs = -0.35, p <0.01, WtHR; rs = -0.43, p <0.001), T25FW (BMI; rs = 0.32, p <0.01, WtHR; rs = 0.38, p <0.001), and the SF-36 (BMI; rs = -0.29, p <0.005, WtHR; rs = -0.31, p <0.05). Percentage body fat accounted for an additional 17 % of the variance in the T25FW and 6MWT performance, after controlling for age and disease duration.

Conclusion: Higher BMI, WtHR, and percentage body fat were associated with lower levels of mobility (T25FW and 6MWT) in people with MS who have class I, class II, and class III obesity. Higher percentage body fat was associated with significantly worse performance on clinical, free-living, and self-report measures of mobility in people with MS even when accounting for participant age and disease duration. These findings suggest that people with MS and obesity may show improved mobility with weight loss.

Keywords: Body mass index; Mobility; Multiple sclerosis; Obesity; Physical activity; Weight.

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon / methods
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Humans
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / complications
  • Obesity / complications
  • Postural Balance
  • Self Report
  • Time and Motion Studies