Exercise to keep multiple sclerosis signs at bay: Dubai expert
Dubai - 'MS Edition' will help prolong period between attacks
We all know regular physical activity is beneficial to health, but when you're living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), the benefits of exercise go far beyond just fitness.
"Exercise helps manage some symptoms of MS. It can increase energy, improve balance, manage spasticity, decrease muscle atrophy, and help the patient perform activities of daily living better," Slavica Tolic, physiotherapist and fitness and pilates instructor at Exhale Studio, Dubai, told Khaleej Times.
With a Black Belt in Karate, Tolic lives and breathes fitness, but there is one particular client group she holds close to her heart.
Slavica Tolic, fitness expert, helps multiple sclerosis (MS) patients manage symptoms (left), Maha Abbas spreads knowledge and provides support to MS patients (centre), Susan Dibden finds respite after exercising regularly (right).- Photos by Rahul Gajjar/Khaleej Times
"I love working with patients with MS. I mean, I am sorry I am working with them because they have MS, but seeing the results exercise can have on their daily lives is so fulfilling to me."
Before moving to Dubai six years ago, Tolic spent five years working in the Atomic Spa Centre at the Neurophysiological Hospital in Serbia.
She specialised in working with people with MS and cerebral paralysis.
"Working with people with MS was my first job, so although I don't have any personal connections to the disease, in a way it is personal to me because it was my first experience helping people."
And in her words, she is "crazy about MS".
On Tuesday, Tolic held Exhale Studio's first official 'Fitness Class - MS Edition'.
Launched in collaboration with Dubai-based MS Talks - an initiative set up by MS patient Maha Abbas, to spread knowledge, provide education and support MS patients in the UAE - the 'MS Edition' class will now run on the last Tuesday of every month, at 12pm.
As part of Exhale Studio's 'Community Classes' programme, the lessons will be free of charge.
"The class will focus on pilates which has so many principles working on core strength and balance. Once these are mastered they can alleviate symptoms of MS and prolong the period in between attacks," Tolic said.
The class uses all exercises available in a regular pilates session, but the setup has been adapted to suit the needs of those living with MS.
Using differing cardio techniques and breaking regularly, Tolic said the aim of the session is to provide daily coping strategies for patients when, for instance, they feel an attack is coming on.
And the class avoids any "overheating" as this can be a trigger for symptoms for some patients.
Taking part in the debut class was US expatriate, Susan Dibden.
Diagnosed with MS at the age of 35, Dibden said her right foot sometimes drags when she gets tired, which often leads to her tripping up.
To deal with the issue, Tolic recommended a simple at home exercise. "Try picking up a pen with your foot, throw the pen, then try to pick it up again. Issues like that are common if the peroneal nerve is damaged. That is the nerve in the lower leg that provides sensation and motor function to parts of the lower leg."
For Dibden, regular exercise is beneficial both physically and mentally.
"With MS you can experience both depression and euphoria. Each case is different for each patient. But exercise lets off endorphins in your body and when you're living with an incurable disease, that feeling is priceless."
This collaboration between MS Talks and Exhale Studio is another step on the path to opening up the discussion about MS, Abbas said.
Tolic's top tips:
. Swim - it's great for coordination, balance and strength
. Work on pelvic stability - it's important for standing, sitting and walking
. 20 minutes of daily exercise to build core strength, prolong period between attacks
Maha Abbas spreads knowledge and provides support to MS patients.
Susan Dibden finds respite after exercising regularly. —Photos by Rahul Gajjar