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Cool down

Exercise environment researchers first to receive MS society funding

Research

By Sandy Woolfrey-Fahey

A team from Memorial University is currently investigating ways to improve quality of life for persons with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Principal researcher Dr. Michelle Ploughman is with Memorial’s Faculty of Medicine. Dr. Ploughman, along with Drs. Duane Button and Kevin Power with the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation (HKR), received funding of $172,968 through the MS Society of Canada’s 2015 Spring Clinical and Population Health competition. Geetika Grover, a M.Sc. kinesiology student in HKR, is also working on the project.

“Ultimately we want to improve the lives of people with motor impairments like MS.”— Dr. Duane Button

“Moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise improves MS symptoms and quality of life,” said Dr. Ploughman. “However, people with MS get overheated and fatigued easily and are often unable to exercise due to mobility challenges.

“Through our research we hope to identify the best way to achieve aerobic training so people with MS can continue to exercise and benefit from all the cardiovascular, metabolic and psychological benefits of exercise.”

Drs. Michelle Ploughman, Duane Button, and Kevin Power along with Geetika Grover stand with equipment used during testing.
Drs. Michelle Ploughman, Duane Button, and Kevin Power along with Geetika Grover, a M.Sc. kinesiology student in HKR hope to identify the best way to achieve aerobic training so people with MS can continue to exercise.
Photo: Chris Hammond

The project will test how aerobic exercise on a treadmill or a seated stepper in either ambient temperatures (21°C) or cooler (16°C) environments affects fatigue, measured by using walking, thinking and brain function.

“We are one of only a few research teams in Canada studying physical rehabilitation and recovery in MS, and the first team from Memorial to receive funding from the MS Society of Canada,” explained Dr. Button. “Ultimately we want to improve the lives of people with motor impairments like MS.”

The funded research transfers very well to past work conducted by the team. Each researcher brings specific expertise that benefits the project in the areas of MS rehabilitation, stroke recovery research, physiotherapy and fatigue in athletes to create new solutions to heat sensitivity and fatigue for MS patients.

“This is an opportunity to combine our areas of expertise and take basic science and apply it to a clinical population,” said Dr. Power. “We hope to find evidence to support practice guidelines that clinicians can apply to benefit their patients.”

The team will also focus on understanding some of the underlying mechanisms that may explain how aerobic exercise affects neuromotor performance. Furthermore, these studies mark the first step in carefully outlining safe and effective methods to institute and test aerobic training among people with moderate MS-related disability.

The Faculty of Medicine’s Dean’s Innovation Fund supported pilot research for this study.

To participate in the study, please call 709-777-2082 or email recovery.performance@med.mun.ca.


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