The evidence that exercise and I mean regular exercise is good for you is so overwhelming that it is hard to argue against the science. What I mean by this is that almost everyone accepts exercise as being good for the general population and for people with MS. The downside is that some MSers are so disabled and/or have so much fatigue that they find it difficult to exercise. I am prepared to accept the latter, but I am not prepared to accept this as a reason not to promote/prescribe exercise to the wider MS community. The question I have 'Is how do we get MSers and healthcare professionals (HCPs) to exercise regularly?'.
Are you interested in hearing more about what you can do?
The review below argues for applying behaviour change theory in the design of exercise programs and promotion efforts. How about making it a challenge? Can you walk? Can you run?
In collaboration with the MS Trust, we are proposing starting a national exercise challenge/competition to get the MS community walking and running. We are proposing to use the Parkrun platform. Parkruns are 5km runs that are held each Saturday in a local park near you and allow you to complete 5km and log an official time. The challenge is to get every MS team in the UK, and possibly the world, to sign-up for the challenge and collect 5km runs. The team with the most Parkruns after a certain period of time, say a 6- or 12-month period, wins the challenge.
When I refer to teams I mean all MS stakeholders linked to a particular MS service or team. This would not only include people with MS, but their HCPs, friends and families, MS Society members, ShiftMSers and even Pharma reps. The only rule we would propose putting in place is that a member of a particular MS team can only sign-up for one team. Another idea is to combine Parkrun effort with a fundraising campaign for the MS Trust. However, the fundraising would be voluntary and not necessary for participating in the challenge.
I have suggested to the MS Trust that they create an annual Parkrun award for the team who wins the challenge and for the individual who completes the most Parkruns in the predefined period of time. Please note you can only really do one ParkRun a week and special one held on Christmas day and New Year's day.
Do you think this is a good idea? If yes, what should we call the challenge? With my bias, I would say #ThinkRunning. Or what about 'The Running and Proud MS Trust ParkRun Challenge'?
I know the naysayers will be saying, but I can't run. I know there are some of you who can't run but then there will be others who are simply deconditioned (the medical term for unfit). For you, I would suggest starting the 'couch to 5K' programme that is designed to get you off the couch and running 5km in just nine weeks. The plan involves three runs a week with a rest day in between and a different running schedule each week. The NHS is promoting this using an app developed by the BBC, the programme or app builds you up gradually with a mix of running and walking.
The good thing about making this initiative into a challenge is that it builds teams (people are competitive) and it will increase social participation. Theis will, in turn, enhance social capital, which should improve outcomes as well.
We have already had a discussion with one of Parkrun's MS ambassadors and the MS Trust and they are very supportive of this initiative. Are you willing to give it a go? Please let us know even if it is helping with the naming of the challenge. Without your help, this won't happen.
Let's Do It!
Motl et al. Promotion of physical activity and exercise in multiple sclerosis: Importance of behavioral science and theory. Mult Scler J Exp Transl Clin. 2018 Jul 9;4(3):2055217318786745.
There is an obvious disconnect between evidence of benefits and rates of participation in exercise and physical activity among people living with multiple sclerosis (MS). We propose that the problem with exercise behavior in MS (i.e. lack of broad or increasing participation by people with MS despite evidence of meaningful benefits) might be ameliorated through the inclusion of behavior change theory in the design of exercise programs and promotion efforts, as has been undertaken in other populations such as breast cancer survivors. This paper reviews Social Cognitive Theory as an example approach for informing interventions for increasing exercise and physical activity behavior outside of MS and provides an overview of current knowledge regarding the application of this theory for physical activity in MS. We then outline future research necessary for informing trials that design, implement, and test theory-based interventions for physical activity promotion in MS. If theories of behavior change are adopted for informing exercise and physical activity research in MS, we can take a major step forward in addressing the problem of exercise and physical activity participation that has plagued the field for more than 25 years.
CoI: I am a runner, albeit one with a failing right hip
Labels: MS Trust, ParkRun, Running