PAMS Study in the News!

By Joanna Frketich

Multiple sclerosis left Julie Yocom-Armstrong feeling numb in parts of her body, suffering vertigo and with no strength to continue working as a teacher.

What got the 44-year-old Hamilton mom strong enough to get back to the classroom at Chedoke School was a McMaster University study. The research wasn't testing a new drug or a cutting-edge therapy. It was measuring the effect of exercise.

"Nothing else changed except my activity level," said Yocom-Armstrong. "I'm a complete believer physical activity is the key to my health ... When I did not make it a priority, I lost all my strength."

Julie Yocom-Armstrong takes part in the the Muck Race for MS last Saturday in Stoney Creek.

The study, which is currently recruiting MS patients aged 18 to 64 with mild to moderate disability, is looking at the best way to encourage exercise as well as testing how much of a difference it makes.

"More and more evidence is saying that exercise is a wonderful therapy for MS," said principal investigator Audrey Hicks who is a professor kinesiology at McMaster. "It's really quite remarkable what we're seeing."

About one-third of the 150 patients have been enrolled in the three-year randomized control trial being run at McMaster and Queen's University in Kingston. It is funded primarily by a $300,000 grant from the MS Society of Canada.

"Everyone knows physical activity is good for you. But knowing it's good for you and participating in it are two different things," said Karissa Canning, a PhD candidate working on the study. "We have to get the rates up in the MS population."

Patients in one group of the study are given exercise guidelines created in 2012 for those with MS, recommending 30 minutes of aerobic exercise twice a week plus strength training twice a week. They are left to their own devices to do it.

The other group is "prescribed" the guidelines similar to the way a drug is prescribed and referred to a program at McMaster to do the exercise.

Over 16 weeks, researchers note which patients follow the regime and measure any differences in their health.

For Yocom-Armstrong the difference was dramatic. She was in the group where patients are left on their own to follow the guidelines. She'd fallen out of the routine of exercising after becoming a busy working mom and now had to find a way to fit it back in. She started swimming, doing yoga and working out.

During the four months, her waist size went up by six cm.

"I know most people would not have been excited about that but to me it was exciting," she said. "I'd lost so much weight and muscle tone that my body had been shrivelling up. It was amazing the difference in stamina and strength."

She's back at work after about seven months off and participated in the physically demanding MS Muck Run Sept. 26.

"I need to find the ability to continue," she said. "I've been to the other side and I don't want to go back."

To get involved in the study email Canning at canninkl@mcmaster.ca.

McMaster also runs an exercise program for patients called MS FITT on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday from 5 to 7:30 p.m.


jfrketich@thespec.com

905-526-3349 | @Jfrketich

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