Conference Coverage

High-Intensity Interval Exercise May Be Appropriate for Patients With MS

The activity is as enjoyable as continuous exercise for this population and could improve physiologic conditioning.


NASHVILLE—For patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and walking impairments, high-intensity interval exercise is as enjoyable as traditional continuous exercise and does not induce sustained, harmful effects on mood, according to research presented at the 2018 CMSC Annual Meeting. This finding could influence evidence-based prescriptions for exercise that are appropriate for improving physiologic conditioning, according to the researchers.

MS often results in walking dysfunction and physiologic deconditioning. High-intensity interval exercise has induced significant improvements in physiologic conditioning in healthy and clinical populations, including patients with MS. Before integrating high-intensity interval exercise into an exercise prescription, and to increase the likelihood that participants will engage in and adhere to this exercise regimen, investigators thought it important to ascertain whether people with MS and mobility disability enjoy the high-intensity interval exercise and experience mood benefits.

Elizabeth Hubbard, PhD, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology at Berry College in Mount Berry, Georgia, conducted a study to examine the effects of single sessions of high-intensity interval exercise and continuous exercise on mood and enjoyment outcomes in persons with MS and mobility disability. In their study, 20 participants (median Expanded Disability Status Scale score, 5.8) underwent counterbalanced presentations of high-intensity interval exercise and continuous exercise bouts using a recumbent stepper. The high-intensity interval exercise bout was 20 minutes long and included 10 cycles of one-minute intervals at a wattage associated with 90% VO2 peak, followed by one-minute recovery intervals at 15 W. The continuous exercise bout lasted for 20 minutes at a wattage associated with 50% to 60% VO2 peak. The researchers administered the Profile of Mood States (POMS) survey before, immediately after, and 30 minutes after exercise. The Physical Activity Enjoyment Scale (PACES) questionnaire was administered immediately after exercise.

Elizabeth Hubbard, PhD

Dr. Hubbard and colleagues observed no significant condition-by-time interactions or main effects of condition on any POMS subscales. The data indicated large, statistically significant main effects of time on total mood disturbance, fatigue, and vigor. Specifically, mood worsened immediately after exercise, but rebounded after the 30-minute recovery period. The researchers saw no significant difference in scores for the PACES questionnaire between high-intensity interval exercise (mean, 95.5) and continuous exercise (mean, 97.7) conditions.

One weakness of the study was that the population was relatively active, although with a low level of fitness. In addition, the researchers did not control for age, sex, or disability status.

The high-intensity interval exercise and continuous exercise were feasible, safe, and enjoyable in people with MS who have mobility disability. “High-intensity interval exercise … might be particularly beneficial for improving fitness and functional capacity in persons with MS who have mobility disability and experience subsequent physiologic deconditioning,” said Dr. Hubbard.

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