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Effects of Resistance Exercise in Multiple Sclerosis
Abstract of a paper presented at the Annual Meeting
of the American College of Sports Medicine, June 1996.

S. L. Kasser and J. McCubbin
Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR

In comparison to the extensive body of literature pertaining to exercise in healthy individuals, empirical investigation into the responses of persons with multiple sclerosis (MS) to exercise has been limited (Schapiro, Petajan, Kosich, Molk, & Fenney, 1988). The role of exercise for persons with MS has been somewhat controversial. While it is clear overexertion causes extreme fatigue and weakness in this population, physical activity is often avoided on all levels. The purpose of the study was to assess the efficacy of a progressive resistance exercise program on the muscular strength of individuals with MS. Nine adults with relapse-remitting MS participated in the study, exercising two times per week for ten weeks. Exercises consisted of a combination of machine-based, free weight, and gravity opposed resistance exercises. Repetitions and intensity of exercise were progressively increased over the course of training based upon an individualized exercise protocol. Isokinetic testing was administered don two separate sessions on consecutive days prior to the exercise program to ensure familiarity with the test and once following the exercise program. A KinCom 500h was used to assess peak force, at both 60 and 120 degrees per second, of knee flexors/extensors, elbow flexors/extensors, and shoulder abductors/adductors in the dominant extremity. Following a brief warm-up, three test trials were conducted, with peak values used in the analysis.

The table below reflects mean percent change in peak force of the specific muscle groups tested:

60 deg/s 120 deg/s
Quadriceps 16.3 ± 16.6 29.6 ± 18.4
Hamstrings 46.4 ± 49.8 57.8 ± 65.1
Biceps 8.8 ± 17.4 6.1 ± 13.2
Triceps 16.8 ± 20.4 29.0 ± 64.2
Deltoids 9.2 ± 16.5 2.0 ± 8.3
Latissimus 11.9 ± 23.3 3.1 ± 17.2

Although some individuals showed no improvement in peak forces, results indicated that a majority of subjects made substantial increases in muscular strength due to their participation. These findings suggest that progressive resistive exercise may be effective in increasing muscular strength in adults with multiple sclerosis.