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Disabil Rehabil. 2018 Jun;40(13):1517-1523. doi: 10.1080/09638288.2017.1300946. Epub 2017 Mar 14.

Physical activity motivation and benefits in people with multiple sclerosis.

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a Department of Health and Exercise Science , Appalachian State University , Boone , NC , USA.
b Department of Kinesiology , The University of North Carolina at Greensboro , Greensboro , NC , USA.



Multiple sclerosis is a degenerative neurological disease that affects 2.1 million people worldwide. There is no cure, but an expanding body of research supports the positive impact of physical activity and suggests physical activity has benefits for the individual's psychological and physical well-being.


Using Self-Determination Theory as a framework, mixed methods with a focus on qualitative interviews were used to explore physical activity motivation and benefits with a sample of highly active people with multiple sclerosis (nā€‰=ā€‰15). Disability level ranged from not disabled to wheelchair bound with the majority of participants reporting minimal impact from multiple sclerosis. Survey data were collected using a number of open-ended questions along with measures of self-efficacy, self-determined motivation, physical activity, and quality of life. Additionally, eight individuals participated in semistructured telephone interviews focused on (a) motivation and strategies used to maintain physical activity and (b) the benefits and impact of physical activity in their lives.


The main findings were consistent with Self-Determination Theory; participants described feelings of accomplishment and competence in both their physical activity and daily life, as well as a sense of independence and autonomy. Similarly, all participants cited benefits, and the main themes were enhanced satisfaction with life and an overall positive outlook on life.


Results provide insight into the role of physical activity in a highly active sample and have implications for professionals working in physical activity settings with the multiple sclerosis population. Interventions aimed at increasing long-term physical activity adherence should focus on increasing autonomy and competence for physical activity in the individual and promoting potential increased quality of life outcomes from physical activity participation. Implications for Rehabilitation Multiple sclerosis is a chronic degenerative neurological disease that the individual lives with for a majority of the lifespan. Physical activity is one means that has been shown to aid is the control of multiple sclerosis symptoms. Increasing patient understanding of the benefits of using physical activity as a means to control multiple sclerosis symptoms may result in long-term physical activity adherence. Physical activity interventions that develop feelings of competence and independent choice in the patient may be more successful for long-term participation.


Multiple sclerosis; Self-Determination Theory; motivation; physical activity; self-efficacy

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