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Physical activity, sitting time and exercise types, and associations with symptoms in Australian people with multiple sclerosis

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 18:09 authored by Marck, CH, Learmonth, YC, Chen, J, Ingrid van der MeiIngrid van der Mei
Purpose: Multiple sclerosis (MS) often leads to reduced physical activity and exercise participation. Sedentary behaviour is associated with poor health, whereas exercise is effective in managing MS symptoms. This study assessed physical activity, exercise and sedentary sitting time, and identified associations with symptoms.

Material and methods: Participants of the Australian MS Longitudinal Study completed surveys in 2016. We measured physical activity and sitting time via the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (short-form), and assessed participation in exercise (type and duration). Multivariable regression models assessed associations between physical activity, sitting time and exercise; and demographic characteristics and MS-related symptoms.

Results: Of the 1216 participants, 53.0% reported moderate-high physical activity levels (71.5% among those with no/mild disability). Median sitting time was 7 h/day. Most (78.4%) participated in aerobic exercise, while only 16.4% participated in strength training. Having a progressive MS onset, more severe symptoms (i.e., cognitive impairment, depression, fatigue, mobility impairment) and being male was indicative of lower physical activity levels and higher sitting time.

Conclusions: Health promotion efforts should encourage physical activity and exercise, in particular strength training, among people with MS. People with more severe symptoms and progressive disease may require focused exercise promotion from healthcare professionals.

Implications for Rehabilitation: Comprehensive MS management should include strategies to increase physical activity and exercise participation, with particular focus upon people with higher MS-symptom burden (i.e., depression, fatigue and mobility and cognitive impairment), men, and those with progressive onset MS. Efforts to promote physical activity guidelines for people with MS and address barriers to physical activity must be implemented in standard MS care, with a particular focus on adhering to strength training guidelines. Exercise type and duration varies among people with MS, and it would behove healthcare professionals and researchers to consider promoting activities which align with individuals preferences and abilities when promoting exercise.


Publication title

Disability and Rehabilitation






Menzies Institute for Medical Research


Taylor & Francis

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

Copyright 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Clinical health not elsewhere classified; Behaviour and health

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