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MS & the Outdoors

people hiking close up

Enjoy the Great Outdoors

Sunshine, fresh air, beautiful views — there’s a lot to love about the outdoors. And so many ways to enjoy it, from hiking a mountain trail to gardening in your backyard. You don’t have to give it up because of MS. A little planning and the right tools can help you enjoy yourself while you stay safe and comfortable.

photo of woman swimming in pool

Hit the Pool

Swimming and water aerobics are excellent workouts for people with MS. The water supports your body and makes it easier to move. It also provides resistance, which will strengthen your muscles. Plus, you’re much less likely to overheat when your heart rate starts to climb. If the pool is heated, check the temperature to make sure it’s not too hot. A range of 80-84 degrees is ideal.


photo of man on sit down bike

Upgrade or Modify Your Bike

Love cycling? Don’t give it up because of MS. Try switching to a three-wheeled recumbent bicycle or a handbike for more stability. You can order them with special features like backrests and leg straps, depending on your needs. Another option: Modify your existing bike with features like toe clips, which are helpful if your feet tend to go numb and slip off the pedals.

photo of group of people riding horses

Horse Around

Enjoy great weather and beautiful scenery on a leisurely trail ride. Gentle horseback riding is fun and relaxing, and it can improve your core strength and balance. Plus, some horseback riding programs are designed as therapy for people with movement problems. You can look up a center near you online via Path International or The American Hippotherapy Association.

photo of group yoga class

Mix It Up

It’s a good idea to target different parts of your body with different exercises. It challenges you and keeps your muscles toned evenly. So try something new! If you always go walking, for example, take an outdoor yoga class once in a while. Another benefit to exercise variety: A review of 45 studies found that mixed fitness training worked especially well against MS-related fatigue.

photo of couple riding bikes

Bring a Buddy

A friend who can join you for an outdoor activity means you’ll have an extra hand if you start to feel unsteady on your feet or get hit with fatigue. She can also check in with you during exercise to make sure you’re feeling OK. Plus, it’s more fun to have company — and you’ll be less likely to cancel your outdoor plans in favor of cooling it on the couch.

photo of couple hiking

Map Out Your Route

For activities like hiking and biking, be sure to plot out the terrain before you hit the trail. You’ll know exactly where you’re going, how many miles you’ll log, and how long it should take. You can also make note of where to find rest stops and, most important, bathrooms. In most national and state parks, you can choose from accessible trails with fewer steep grades and smoother paths.

photo of woman spraying water on face

Keep Your Cool

A rise in body temperature — even just a quarter of a degree — can make MS symptoms worse. So plan to get outside in the cooler parts of the day. While you’re out, a cooling vest can also help. They are battery-operated or may use gel packs to keep your temperature down when you’re active. You can also try cooling headbands or neckbands. Even a spray bottle of water can help you beat the heat.

photo of person resting on cliff ledge

Choose the Right Shoes

Whether on rocky terrain or a smooth track, your footwear should give you extra stability and help with issues like numbness in your feet. Look for a pair that’s lightweight (so it takes less effort to lift off the ground), has a wide heel (for support and balance), and has enough room for orthotics or a brace, if you use either. Your doctor or physical therapist can point you to good brands.

photo of beach wheelchair

Sand-Proof Your Walking Aids

Heading to the beach? If you use walking aids like crutches or canes, you can buy special tips that attach to the bottom and help you move more easily without sinking into the sand. Some beaches may also let you rent a beach wheelchair, which has large, wider wheels designed to travel across the shore without getting stuck. Research your options before you go, and see if you can reserve one in advance.

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