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What is it?

There is no doubt that multiple sclerosis (MS) is an extremely debilitating disease, and is the most disabling neurologic disease of young adults in USA (3). 

It affects the central nervous system leading to a destruction of nerve machinery in a sufferer’s body. These effects result in functional impairments such as abnormal walking mechanics, poor balance and muscle weakness, leading to reducing an individual’s ability to perform daily activities. Now, I intended to write this article without too much technical wording, but in some instances I have had to cover it slightly, so bare with me, because although it maybe slightly harder to read in places, the results of the research offers MS sufferers huge benefits.


Figure 1 Motor neuron and its components.


This destruction of the nerve machinery leads to a reduced ability or inability to activate muscles in the lower limbs. This is because the signals from the brain can’t get to the muscle as the motor units (signal box of our muscles) lose some, if not all function.  MS sufferers can have between 30-70% lower muscle strength compared to healthy adults (2).

Maximal strength training

Whether you exercise in the gym, play sport or do another form of activity, you will be aware of when your body is working a little bit or when its working hard.  In terms of strength training (ST), this involves lifting near maximum efforts for between 1-5 repetitions (working very hard). There is a vast amount of research showing that ST improves muscle strength, by stimulating neural adaptations that allow muscle to produce more force (1). The main reason for this is increased nerve signals from the brain to the muscle (1).  Hence, this is why virtually all-professional athletes, regardless of sport, have a well-structured strength & conditioning plan that works alongside their sport itself.  Strength gains DO NOT mean size gains, and this is evident when you watch sports such as men and women’s triple jump, high jump, 800m, tennis, synchronised swimming and diving etc.


Why does maximal strength training help MS sufferers?

Strength training in particular has been shown to increase the neuromuscular function (nerve and muscle function) in MS sufferers (2). One very recent study found an average increase of 20% in muscle strength, which was seen in just 3 weeks. This is similar to what has been reported in healthy subjects after specific strength training.  These findings demonstrate a vast potential for improvements in strength and neural function following ST in MS patients.

Things to note

  • ·                     There were no adverse effects for the MS patients in this study
  • ·                     All patients dramatically improved daily living quality
  • ·                     All patients performed their specific MS rehab at the same time
  • ·                     Patients included mild and moderate conditions
  • ·                     Symptoms were alleviated

There was no mention of how long the improved state lasted, but surely a 3-week strength-training block is worth trialling, even if improvements are not permanent.

Example training plan

This study used the following intervention:

3 weeks long – 15 sessions in total (5 sessions per week)

Horizontal leg press

Seated calf raises

4 sets x 4 repetitions (85-90% 1RM – maximum effort)


Finally, if this were something that you feel is worth investigating, I would advise seeking a fully qualified coach (e.g. United Kingdom strength and conditioning association accredited coach – UKSCA). For more information please contact Coast Clinic on 01273 321133.

Written by Richard Husseiny

Richard works at Coast and is an accredited Strength and Conditioning coach and Sports Therapist. Away from elite sport, this is an area that Richard is very interested in and would love to be able to support any MS sufferers that is interested in trialling this type of intervention.


1)     Behm, DG. (1995) Neuromuscular Implications and Applications of Resistance Training. J Str Cond Res, 9(4) 264-274.

2)     Fimland, MS., Helgerud, J., Gruber, M., Leivseth, G & Hoff, J. (2010) Enhanced neural drive after maximal strength training in multiple sclerosis  sufferers, Eur J Appl Physiol,

3)     Frohman, EM. (2003) Multiple Sclerosis. Med Clin North Am, 87, 867-97, viii-ix



Yoga Teacher Ginny Haswell shares with us a few reasons to step onto the yoga mat during the autumn and winter.

 Time to start or restart

If your yoga practice had declined over the summer months or perhaps you intended to start up yoga but didn’t quite get round to it, this time of year is the perfect time to focus on your intentions, as the distractions of summer holidays and festivals are over for another year. 

Autumn invites us to turn inwards, recognise that we are usually over-busy and allow ourselves time to slow down.   The practice of yoga asanas (physical postures), breathing exercises or meditation will give us this opportunity to nurture ourselves.


Take a break from the party season

The autumn and winter seasons signify a time to restore and conserve our energy, yet when we consider that Christmas falls just after the shortest day of the year, it is no wonder that the ubiquitous planning, shopping, socialising and partying can leave us feeling frazzled and stressed out; the demands of the festive season are not in harmony with the nature of winter.

Yoga is a wonderful stress-buster.  Just taking an hour or two of your week to attend a class can be a welcome break from the hustle and bustle.  Yoga brings us into the present moment, allowing stress to dissolve and calm to be restored.  If you can’t make it to a class, try just sitting for 5-10 minutes a day at home, when you won’t be disturbed, and focus on your breathing.

Once the festive season winds to a close, we can use our yoga practice to help detoxify the body and boost our immunity.


A chance to rest & recuperate or to boost our energy levels

As the leaves fall from the trees and the daylight hours grow shorter, we may feel those winter blues sneaking up on us again.  However we can help to keep our spirits up and stay healthy in body and mind by practicing yoga. 

Specific breathing techniques (pranayama) offer a way to revitalise ourselves and certain postures are known for their stimulating effect on the nervous system.  Postures that open the front of the body i.e. back bends, can help us to feel brighter and more energised.

However if we’re feeling over stimulated from the excesses of the festive season and time spent in shopping malls, we may choose to relax and quieten our mind with passive, forward bending postures.

So if you want to increase your vitality, stay energised or take a well deserved break from the stresses of life, come to a yoga class; give yourself the space to relax, breathe and shine brightly.


Ginny has a range of classes for all levels and ages from teens to seniors.

In part 2:  Ginny will share some techniques that you can practice to help you feeling bright and healthy through ‘til Spring!

Written by Ginny Haswell

My first pair of Vibram Five Fingers ™ (VFF’S) was a pair of Classics, in grey and orange. I loved them. The first thing I did, of course, was research how to wear them in – not! What I did do was put them on and go out all day walking miles. To begin with they were amazingly comfortable. I even quite liked the odd glances my feet were getting. But by the afternoon I was regretting my decision. I crawled home, with my calves like rocks and the soles of my feet on fire. It was at that point I looked to see how I should start wearing them.


            So what should I have done? Essentially: ease into wearing them gently. Wear the shoes for short periods of time, round the house, building up to local trips. The same principal as it is with running; add it slowly. Start with short distances, gradually going further. Listen to your body; don’t overdo it. Also stretch! Especially stretch your calves, quads and hamstring muscles. (There will be more information on stretching coming soon). So that is what I started to do. It took some time but I built up my resistance gradually. As I got into the barefoot idea I sought more information. One name that popped up regularly is a book by Christopher McDougall Born to Run: The Hidden Tribe, the Ultra-Runners, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. It is an interesting pop science book, with a positive outlook on barefoot running.  


            Eventually after 6 months I was able to wear my VFF’s happily all day, with no ill effects. One of the best things about the shoes is you forget you are wearing them. So when people started looking at my feet in confusion I would wonder why. I even had 10 people round me in a shop asking questions. Including where to get them. My advice has always been go where you can try them on. The fit is vital. They don’t fit like normal shoes, so you must go where they can give good advice. For example in Brighton and Hove, I would always recommend Inter Sport, Nick Rivett on Church Road. They are great in there.


            So remember if you want to try these amazing shoes, get them fitted properly, start slowly and stretch.


Written by Margaret Sinclair

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