van der Ven E, Riemann-Lorenz K, Rosenkranz SC, Patra S, Heesen C

Background: Physical activity (PA) has beneficial effects on many disease related symptoms in people with multiple sclerosis (pwMS). Physical parameters – such as muscle strength, endurance, and balance – as well
as fatigue, depression and neurocognitive functioning, can be positively influenced by regular PA. Nevertheless, pwMS are less physically active than the general population. The reasons for this are not well understood. Hypothesis: We hypothesized that beside personal factors, environmental factors such as transport and access to exercise facilities probably are responsible for the widespread physical inactivity among people with MS. The perception of environmental barriers could be influenced by the place of residence (city/rural area) or the degree of physical impairment.
Methods: Between April and October 2017 we examined the perception of PA and exercise options among pwMS from different regions in Germany. Using an online survey, we collected data from 630 pwMS. Results: Our data indicate that pwMS in rural areas gave lower ratings for their PA and exercise options than those in cities (p < 0.001). In rural areas, environmental barriers were more often mentioned as a reason for physical inactivity. In addition, MS patients with greater disability rated their PA and exercise options lower than those with less severe disability (p < 0.001). The degree of physical impairment increases the perception of environmental barriers. Among physically active people with MS, the mean acceptable travel time to exercise facilities was 17 minutes, with a high variance. Surprisingly, this did not differ significantly between city and rural areas. The mean acceptable cost for sporting facilities was € 46.01 per month, also with a high variance. The three most desired activities were: swimming (13.9 %, n = 59), relaxation techniques (12.2 %, n = 52), and dancing (8.2 %, n = 35). Conclusion: Our study provides information on the perception of PA and exercise options among people with MS in different regions of Germany. Living in rural areas and having greater disability are associated with a lower rating of PA and exercise options.

Neurol Rehabil 2020; 26 (3): 169-178

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