Exercising with MS: Why I love the water

It has taken me some time to figure out how to stay active as my MS has progressed over the past five years. Not that there aren’t options. Yoga, Pilates, seated aerobics. I’ve tried all those. I have DVDs and will get into them from time to time. My initiative usually lasts a week or two.

Before I started having trouble walking due to foot drop and muscle weakness, I rode a bicycle. I was able to carry it from my third floor apartment, take off the wheel and lift it into the back of my VW New Beetle. Off I would go to the nearby park that had great paved trails and I would go for 10 to 15 miles rides. I loved it. I loved my bike and I loved going for those bike rides alone, listening to my iPod. When I took a decent spill on my bike in 2005, I knew that it wasn’t safe for me anymore. The end of my bike riding days had been in the works. My rides had decreased to leisurely meanders through my neighborhood. After these short bike rides my legs would feel like they were vibrating for 30 minutes and I had a very difficult time walking. So I stopped. I held on to the idea that I might ride my bike again someday, so it was several years before I eventually sold it.

As my MS limited what I could do physically, I attempted to take up all different types of exercise routines. I even purchased a rowing machine that was used only a handful of times. I thought I’d use it and could watch TV while rowing. But it wasn’t nearly as satisfying as my bike rides on those tree lined trails. I’ve never really been into exercise and it’s taken me all this time to admit that I just don’t really like it. When I rode my bike, I enjoyed it. Sure I was glad to be active, but it was fun for me and that’s why I did it. Exercise is very important for people with Multiple Sclerosis, so I had to find something to keep me active and interested.

After spending years in this phase of trying to find something to stay active I went back to an old love; the water. I learned to swim quite young. My mom loves to swim so she passed her love of the water on to me. At different times in my life I had gym memberships and would swim laps, but this became more difficult as my MS progressed.

A few months ago I decided to try moving around in the water in a different way. I bought a water noodle and bounced around in the water for about 15 minutes. Discovering that my legs could move around easier in a jogging motion, I bought some water shoes and a floatation belt. I’ve now been water jogging for about four months. I’m lucky enough to have a pool, so I go out and water jog now from 25 to 35 minutes while listening to my iPod. And I don’t feel like it’s work. It’s fun.

Water is great for people with MS. It can help keep your core temperature down while you are exercising and there is less pressure on the body. Additionally, most people I know with MS can move around much easier in the water than on land. Balance and strength aren’t as much of an issue, not to mention the buoyancy experienced in water. For these reasons, I love water based exercise for myself and others with MS. It’s always important to make sure you can safely get in and out of a pool. I use my scooter to go out to the pool in my backyard and back inside. I’d always recommend proper safety procedures around the water and on wet surfaces.

I know that having my own pool makes this easier for me, but even in Las Vegas I won’t be able to use it all year. So in the winter I plan on taking my workouts to the city pool down the street. It’s low cost and close to home so I’m willing to make that effort for my health. There are low cost or even free pools in many communities at city recreation centers and schools.

Now that I’ve found a way to get some cardio, I’m working on adding strength training into my routine. It’s not nearly as fun as being in the water, but I know it’s important for me to stay healthy and manage my MS. Check out more information on exercising with MS from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. And for more about exercising with MS in the water, check out their article Come on in the Water’s Fine!