“Pumping iron” may slow down multiple sclerosis progression

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Multiple sclerosis is a debilitating condition that can cause a wide range of symptoms, including muscle deterioration, movement impairment, loss of sensation or balance.

However, it’s not just muscles and movement that can be affected by multiple sclerosis, your brain will also feel as if it is going haywire.

Stop your brain from shrinking

Keeping our brains healthy and active throughout our lives is important, because as we age our brains begin to shrink slowly. And with some diseases – especially neurodegenerative conditions — this natural brain shrinkage happens much faster than normal.

We normally associate brain shrinkage specifically with Alzheimer’s disease, but those suffering with multiple sclerosis also fall victim to brain atrophy.

That’s because your own immune system not only attacks the nerves that control your muscles, but also the ones in your grey matter.

And the more your brain reduces in size… the quicker multiple sclerosis can progress… and the worse your symptoms can become, walloping you with everything from “brain burps” to seizures.

But according to a new study, there’s a natural way to protect your brain from wasting away — because you can build up your brain by working out your muscles!

In this Danish study, 35 patients suffering with multiple sclerosis were divided into two groups. For six weeks, one group engaged in progressive resistance training, which involves strength-building exercises using gym equipment, free weights, and elastic bands, while the other half received no intervention.

By the end of the study, MRI images of the participants’ brains revealed that those in the training group had less brain shrinkage compared to those who didn’t train.

Not only that, but the researchers found that several areas in the brain actually started to grow in response to the resistance training.

Previous research has also found that weight-bearing exercises can thicken your cortex and even help protect your brain from dementia.

It’s not clear exactly how pumping iron can bulk up your grey matter, but it is possible that giving your muscles and nerves a workout may strengthen the neural connections in your brain.

And with multiple sclerosis, anything that improves communication between the brain and the rest of the body is a good thing, because once that communication has broken down, your ability to walk could be a thing of the past.

So, whether you’re already on medication for brain atrophy or just want to prevent brain shrinkage before it starts, give some resistance training a try.

Begin with mild resistance and slowly work your way up. Check your local gym for beginner classes that use weights or elastic bands to help you build strength.



Disclaimer: Bear in mind the material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only. We are not addressing anyone’s personal situation. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.

Sources:

Resistance Training May Slow Down the Progression of Multiple Sclerosis, sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170801090231.htm

Can resistance training impact MRI outcomes in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis?, journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1352458517722645

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  • MS is a very complex and individual disease. It affects sufferers in many different ways, so I’m not sure that “pumping iron” will be a solution for everyone.

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