There is evidence that physical activity or exercise can help manage some of the symptoms of MS such as fatigue, depression and problems with mobility. Also, research has shown that many people with MS want to engage in exercise, but few get the recommended amount.
Dr Learmonth from Murdoch University, WA, aims to engage with people in the MS community to identify how people with MS can participate in exercise programs, what their needs are in relation to the provision of exercise programs and the best ways to deliver such programs. In particular the project will focus on people living in non-metropolitan areas.
Dr Learmonth will conduct surveys and focus groups with people with MS, people that have a close connection to someone with MS (i.e. a family member), healthcare professionals and people involved in determining overall MS care and services programs.
She will also ask people to comment on what physical activity and exercise services are important to research in the future. This research will guide future research and clinical practice to improve the services delivered to the MS community. It is anticipated that the data collected will produce new information to support the development and testing of a program aimed at delivering physical activity and exercise services to persons with MS living in non-metropolitan areas of Australia.
This study has been received by the MS community and collaborators very well. In its first year, with the help of MS Research Australia, MS WA, MS Australia and MS Nurses Australasia, researchers have recruited over 60 participants, including persons with MS, carers, healthcare providers and managers/supervisors in MS care in the WA area. There is also growing interest in participation from other Australian states.
Preliminary findings show that factors that facilitate people with MS to exercise include adequate facilities, a coach, knowledge on MS and exercise, motivation and overall community acknowledgement of exercise promotion. Furthermore, differences in the exercise needs of people with MS in rural versus regional areas have been identified in this study. For example, people in rural areas preferred their exercise services to be telehealth based while people in regional areas were more receptive to accessing community facilities and the idea of group exercise.
These findings have been presented at international MS conferences and two manuscripts prepared by this researcher are nearing submission. We await the full analysis of the Australia-wide community with interest.
Updated: 31 March 2019
Updated: 20 January, 2017