Haker M, Heesen C, Wenzel L, Köpke S, Rahn AC, Jasper J.

Background: Walking disability is one of the most frequent and burdening symptoms of progressive multiple sclerosis (MS). Most of the exercise intervention studies that showed an improvement in mobility performance were conducted in low to moderately disabled relapsing-remitting MS patients with interventions using the legs. However, MS patients with substantial walking disability hardly can perform these tasks. Earlier work has indicated that aerobic arm training might also improve walking performance and could therefore be a therapeutic option in already moderately disabled progressive MS patients. Methods: Patients with progressive MS and EDSS 4-6.5 were randomized using a computer-generated algorithm list to either a waitlist control group (CG) or an intervention group (IG). The IG performed a 12-week home-based, individualized arm ergometry exercise training program. Maximum walking distance as measured by the 6-min walking test (6MWT) was the primary endpoint. Secondary endpoints included aerobic fitness, other mobility tests, cognitive functioning, as well as fatigue and depression. Results: Of n = 86 screened patients, 53 with moderate disability (mean EDSS 5.5, SD 0.9) were included and data of 39 patients were analyzed. Patients in the IG showed strong adherence to the program with a mean of 67 (SD 26.4) training sessions. Maximum work load (P max) increased in the training group while other fitness indicators did not. Walking distance in the 6MWT improved in both training and waitlist group but not significantly more in trained patients. Similarly, other mobility measures showed no differential group effect. Cognitive functioning remained unchanged. No serious events attributable to the intervention occurred. Conclusion: Although maximum work load improved, 3 months of high-frequency arm ergometry training of low to moderate intensity could not show improved walking ability or cognitive functioning in progressive MS compared to a waitlist CG. The study was registered at www.clinicaltrials.gov (NCT03147105) and funded by the local MS self-help organization.Keywords: aerobic exercise; arm ergometry; cognition; multiple sclerosis; progressive multiple sclerosis.

Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2021 Oct;55:103182.

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