MS-related Acute Mood Symptoms Significantly Improved by Walking and Yoga

April 11, 2016

ALTC Editors


Annals of Long-Term Care: Clinical Care and Aging. 2016;24(4):46.

In a recent study, walking and yoga were seen to yield similar improvement in overall acute mood symptoms in people with multiple sclerosis (MS), and walking specifically improved feelings of vigor. The study was published in the International Journal of MS Care and led by Robert W Motl, PhD, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL (2016;18(1):1-8). 

MS results in a wide range of psychological symptoms, including anxiety, depression, fatigue, and anger, but little research has been done to investigate the effects of exercise training on these symptoms and, specifically, how some modes of exercise may yield larger changes in mood than others.  

Dr Motl and colleagues examined the effects of single bouts of treadmill walking and yoga compared with a quiet, seat-rest control condition on acute mood symptoms in people with MS. Twenty-four participants with MS completed 20 minutes of treadmill walking, yoga, or quiet rest in randomized, counterbalanced orders with 1 week between sessions. Participants completed the Profile of Mood States questionnaire before and immediately after each condition. Total mood disturbance (TMD) and the six subscales of the Profile of Mood States were analyzed using repeated-measures analysis of variance and paired-samples t tests.

Researchers found that participants’ TMD improved by a moderate magnitude after both treadmill walking and yoga but remained unchanged for the control condition; the effects of walking and yoga on TMD were not significantly different. They further observed that participants experienced an increase in vigor after walking but not after the yoga session. Single bouts of various forms of exercise seemed to be well tolerated by individuals with MS who have low levels of neurologic disability and may provide an immediate improvement in wellbeing.

The ability of these exercise stimuli to induce positive effects less than 5 minutes after the termination of exercise suggests that exercise is particularly useful when dealing with acute mood symptoms. This is important considering that the prevalence of poor mood symptoms in adults with MS is approximately three times that of the general population. 

In conclusion, the present results indicate that a single bout of exercise might be beneficial in inducing mood-improving effects in people with MS and that the modality of the exercise might not matter if the goal is to improve overall acute mood symptoms (eg, TMD). However, different modalities of exercise might be more effective for improving vigor. 

Future studies should account for trait anxiety, clinical mood disturbances, and habitual physical activity levels in the sample to be able to account for the possible influence of these two important factors on the acute mood symptom effects of acute exercise. —Amanda Del Signore