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Five top tips for living well with MS

Exercise

Drawing on her experiences working as a personal trainer and sports nutrition advisor, Diana, who was diagnosed with MS last year, shares her top tips for living well with the condition.

Hello my name is Diana.  I was diagnosed with MS last year (15 months ago if anyone is counting… I am) and it came as a HUGE shock.  Shortly after diagnosis I read so much information around living well with MS and how important maintaining a healthy lifestyle is in helping to manage the disease.  For me, this means keeping as well as possible to allow me to maintain largely the same activities I have always been used to doing; namely walking everywhere (I drive too, but walking has always seemed a great dose of free exercise!) and training in the gym (I’m a qualified personal trainer). I never really ‘sit still’ and I don’t plan to anytime soon. With any luck.

A bit of trial and experience over the last year (15 months, did I say?!) has led me to put together these five tips for living well with MS which on a practical basis help me to feel ‘good’ and better-able to cope with any niggling symptoms MS gives me.

My top five tips for living well with MS

1. Stay hydrated and cool. Water is a close friend of mine – I’m rarely without a bottle in my bag or in the car.  Despite my treatment seemingly working (everything crossed) my original ‘limpy-leg’ can return if I run ‘too far, too fast’ ie get too hot.  I always take a bottle of half-frozen water to the gym and top it up once I get there which helps to cool me down when I run and hopefully guard against ‘limpy leg’ returning.  I also tend to wear thinner gym clothes and strappy tops to try to keep cool and use the fans built into the treadmill and other machines.

2. Sleep.  I’ve noticed I don’t seem to sleep as well as I did pre-diagnosis and I’ve always needed a decent amount of sleep – I was never the party animal existing on a few hours sleep here or there.  I make a point of going to bed early with a book, not drinking caffeine in the evening or eating supper too late.
  
3. Exercise.  I have always been a keen gym-goer but I now focus more on strengthening my left side as it is noticeably weaker these days.  For example, I train each side separately on the shoulder-press machines using different weight increments for each side and I can easily use the leg-press machines with one leg at a time.  This will hopefully go some way to prevent ‘limpy leg’ returning too. 

4. Healthy diet.  This feels like a bit of a ‘fake’ tip as I have always been really conscious of eating healthily and haven’t really changed much; I focus heavily on vegetables (I’m vegetarian) and make everything from scratch; ‘batch-cooking’ Sundays are a ‘thing’ in our house.  I’m secretly looking forward to the cooler weather when roasted Brussel sprouts are back in season!

5. Relaxation.  As I said in my introduction I am not very good at sitting still, although I am trying to make time for it now and read a book or watch a film.  I struggle to engage in films but I’m really trying to get into it as it’s something we can all enjoy together. That said, I do enjoy a massage or two, so perhaps I need to spend more time doing that!                           

My belief is that maintaining a healthy lifestyle can't NOT help to some degree if only to make us feel better that we are 'doing something' - and fighting back against MS. I believe that it can't not help to try; who's with me?