Could exercising make my heat sensitivity and fatigue worse?

The good news is that exercise does not make heat sensitivity or fatigue worse and there’s a lot you can do to help mitigate their effects whilst exercising, as Eric Morales, Exercise Physiologist at our MS Gym in Lidcombe NSW, explains.

Female Gym Participant and Physio

Top tips from our Physiotherapist

  • Not everything you experience is directly related to your MS. Sometimes pain or dizziness is a problem but might have other causes. It’s always important to ask your doctor if your symptoms can only be attributed to MS, or if there could be something else going on.  
  • Keep a record of your symptoms, both for yourself and for when you go to your doctor. There’s a great app called Emilyn which is specifically for monitoring your MS symptoms and it only takes a minute to complete notes for each day. That way, when you go to your doctor and they ask the open question of "how you are going?" you can remember everything you have been experiencing, not get home and think, "darn, I should have told the doctor about that.”  
  • Add reminders to drink water throughout the day  - you could set a reminder on your phone or place a sticky note on the fridge.

Heat sensitivity

Whilst exercise may cause a worsening of MS symptoms, keep in mind that the effect is temporary and should calm down once you’ve cooled down. Heat sensitivity can be managed, and the effect minimised by doing these things:

personal cooling – wear loose clothing that allows for airflow and is made of light fabrics such as cotton, chambray or linen
fluids and mist sprays – keep your fluids up (icy cold drinks are best) and keep a mist spray handy. Fill it with cool water and spray yourself regularly
keep your environment cool – use a fan to keep the room cool whilst you exercise.
take frequent rest breaks when exercising –  rest between sets to give your body a chance to cool down
types of exercise – you may find that strengthening programs have a lesser impact on your body temperature than aerobic training.
fatigue - Contrary to what you might believe, rest may not always lead to an improvement in fatigue and staying active can be quite beneficial in managing fatigue. This is because exercise increases energy levels and elevates mood. Here are some strategies to help mitigate the effect of fatigue so you can stay active:
maximise your energy – consider contributing factors such as your sleep, mood, stress, relaxation, nutrition, heat sensitivity
plan ahead – prioritise tasks, pace yourself, and use energy efficient strategies. For example, you might choose to go to the shops early in the morning as you may find a lot of parking close by. That, way, you can save your energy for later on in the day and use it for other things such as exercise.
manage your fatigue – take rest breaks, preform exercises earlier in the day, alternate muscle groups, gradually increase your exercise volume (intensity, frequency and duration), apply cooling strategies.

Remember, exercise requires frequent attention but most of all consistency. Assess your situation, do what is practicable for you, set a goal and go from there.

“Exercise plays a critical role in managing my MS symptoms and in my overall wellbeing… I used to have trouble rolling my hips in bed. However, within one month of commencing regular exercise, that became a symptom of the past.”-  Vince, person living with MS and MS gym participant at Lidcombe

Jen Pietersz is the Physiotherapist at our Blackburn, VIC office. Dr Phu is available at our Lidcombe Gym, NSW. Both clinicians are available for Telehealth appointments.
 
To find out more about the exercise physiology we offer, call MS Connect on 1800 042 138 or email msconnect@ms.org.au.



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