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Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2017 Aug;16:31-39. doi: 10.1016/j.msard.2017.06.003. Epub 2017 Jun 12.

The effect of exercise training in adults with multiple sclerosis with severe mobility disability: A systematic review and future research directions.

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Department of Kinesiology & Community Health, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA.
Interdisciplinary School of Health Sciences, University of Ottawa, 200 Lees Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1N 6N5. Electronic address:



There is evidence for the benefits of exercise training in persons with multiple sclerosis (MS). However, these benefits have primarily been established in individuals with mild-to-moderate disability (i.e., Expanded Disability Status Scale [EDSS] scores 1.0-5.5), rather than among those with significant mobility impairment. Further, the approaches to exercise training that have been effective in persons with mild-to-moderate MS disability may not be physically accessible for individuals with mobility limitations. Therefore, there is a demand for an evidence-base on the benefits of physically accessible exercise training approaches for managing disability in people with MS with mobility impairment.


To conduct a systematic review of the current literature pertaining to exercise training in individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) with severe mobility disability.


Four electronic databases (PubMed, EMBASE, OvidMEDLINE, and PsychINFO) were searched for relevant articles published up until October 2016. The review focused on English-language studies that examined the effect of exercise training in people with MS with severe mobility disability, characterized as the need for assistance in ambulation or EDSS score ≥ 6.0. The inclusion criteria involved full-text articles that: (i) included participants with a diagnosis of MS; (ii) included primarily participants with a reported EDSS score ≥ 6.0 and/or definitively described disability consistent with this level of neurological impairment; and (iii) implemented a prospective, structured exercise intervention. Data were analyzed using a descriptive approach and summarized by exercise training modality (conventional or adapted exercise training), and by outcome (disability, physical fitness, physical function, and symptoms and participation).


Initially, 1164 articles were identified and after removal of duplicates, 530 articles remained. In total, 512 articles did not meet the inclusion criteria. 19 articles were included in the final review. Five studies examined conventional exercise training (aerobic and resistance training), and thirteen studies examined adapted exercise modalities including body-weight support treadmill training (BWSTT), total-body recumbent stepper training (TBRST), and electrical stimulation cycling (ESAC). Outcomes related to mobility, fatigue, and quality of life (QOL) were most frequently reported. Two of five studies examining conventional resistance exercise training reported significant improvements in physical fitness, physical function, and/or symptomatic and participatory outcomes. Nine of 13 studies examining adapted exercise training reported significant improvements in disability, physical fitness, physical function, and/or symptomatic and participatory outcomes.


There is limited, but promising evidence for the benefits of exercise training in persons with MS with severe mobility disability. Considering the lack of effective therapeutic strategies for managing long-term disability accumulation, exercise training could be considered as an alternative approach. Further research is necessary to optimize the prescription and efficacy of exercise training for adults with MS with severe mobility disability.


2MWT2-min walk test; 6MWT6-min walk test; ABCactivities-specific balance confidence scale; BBSBerg Balance Scale; BWSTTbody-weight support treadmill training; DGIDynamic Gait Index; Disability; EDSSExpanded Disability Status Scale; ESACelectrical stimulation assisted cycling; Exercise training; FWSfast walking speed test; HRQOLhealth-related quality of life; MFISmodified fatigue impact scale; MMTmanual muscle test; MSIS-29Multiple Sclerosis Impact Scale; MSmultiple sclerosis; Mobility impairment; Multiple sclerosis; NNewtons; PEDrophysiotherapy evidence database; RCTrandomized control trial; SSWSself-selected walking speed test; T25FWTtimed 25-foot walk; TBRSTtotal body recumbent stepper training; TUGTimed Up-and-Go; VO(2)volume of oxygen consumption

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