Aerobic exercise is thought to help persons with multiple sclerosis fight fatigue, the most common symptom of the disease. Yet MS also appears to cause the body to heat up more quickly, compromising the ability to exercise.
New research at University at Buffalo (UB) will investigate if cooling the body before or during exercise allows persons with MS to exercise longer, and which method is most effective. The study also will determine the effects of a 12-week aerobic exercise program on fitness, core and skin temperature, and heat flux in MS patients.
The study is funded by a $449,999 grant from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, U.S. Dept. of Education.
"Exercise is good for MS, but it must be done correctly," said lead investigator Nadine Fisher, Ed.D., clinical associate professor of rehabilitation science in the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions. Carl Granger, Ph.D., UB professor of rehabilitation science, is co-investigator.
"Exercise can build up strength and endurance, reduce depression and increase endorphins, the chemicals in the brain responsible for positive moods," she said. "We are trying to find out how to reduce the exercise limitations MS places on people."
The study will involve 60 persons with MS and will be conducted in two phases. During the first phase, which will comprise four weeks, each participant will exercise under a different cooling condition each week to determine how different cooling methods affect exercise performance and core body temperature.
The conditions are no cooling; cooling before exercise by wearing a specially designed, temperature-controlled cooling vest; cooling during exercise while wearing the vest, and cooling using a method of their choosing other than the vest.
Before each condition, participants will swallow a "temperature pill," a plastic, vitamin-pill-sized sensor developed by NASA that transmits temperature readings to an external monitor as it travels through the body.
During the 12-week second phase, participants will be assigned randomly to one of three groups: an exercise program with cooling, an exercise program without cooling, or no exercise, which will serve as the control group. Various physiological measurements will be taken during the exercise programs, which will take place three days a week for an hour, with built-in rest periods.
The control group will be contacted by phone every two weeks to replicate the benefits of social interaction that the exercise program provides Fisher said she hopes to show that cooling can help persons with MS increase their exercise, and that an aerobic exercise program can improve their functioning and cardiovascular health.
"Positive results of our study would lead to a better understanding of the possibilities of cooling treatment and exercise rehabilitation for these individuals," said Fisher.