Pilates and Multiple Sclerosis – Karl Fleming

Hello out there in Blog land, my name is Karl Fleming and I am a structured PhD student, in year three of my doctoral path seeking educational fulfilment. Those who know me, might consider me to be a tech dinosaur, which is not too far from the truth, so this is my opening dive into the fast flowing and ever deepening social media waters. I am attached to the Department of Physical Education and Sports Science, under the comforting wings and grateful support of Dr. Matthew Herring and Dr. Daniel Tindall, who hopefully will not require much therapy following my research journey. I am also fortunate to have Prof Susan Coote, from across the bridge, in Clinical Therapies on my supervisory team, as the focus of my research pertains to the effects of physical activity, namely Pilates, on mental health outcomes in persons with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

MS Ireland (2017) report that 9,000 people are living with MS in Ireland. Symptoms and severity vary between individuals, affect the body physically, emotionally, and cognitively. Mood impairments, including symptoms of depression, anxiety, and fatigue, are highly prevalent among people with MS. Physical activity is a key in symptom management, and traditional forms of aerobic and resistance exercise have positively affected these psychological symptoms. Less is known about the effects of non-traditional modes of exercise like Pilates. Thus, the aim of my research is to examine the effects of Pilates on symptoms of depression, anxiety, and fatigue in people with MS.

I have been keenly interested in physical activity for many years, and have been involved in the sporting field both as a player and coach, where my real passion exists. I have been involved with the National Council in Exercise and Fitness (NCEF) since 1997, and  regularly tutor on both academic (Research methods) and practical areas of fitness training instruction (Resistance and Circuit training). The NCEF has provided enormous support throughout my educational pathway and are responsible for my initial introduction to and development as a Pilates instructor.

Pilates, which is easily learned, requires little or no equipment and little space,  is described as a low to moderate intensity, predominantly floor based mind-body exercise. Its originator, Joseph Pilates, claims the exercise method may provide a valuable tool for every individual, regardless of age, gender, capacity or ability to utilise in order to enhance both  physical and mental states. It addresses core stability, muscular strength, flexibility, breathing and posture. Research has shown improvements in characteristics such as flexibility, abdominal endurance, balance, posture and blood pressure, although the majority of this research was carried out on a healthy population. I, along with my supervisor have completed a systematic review demonstrating large positive effects of Pilates on depressive and anxiety symptoms and feelings of fatigue, symptoms that are prevalent and poorly treated among people with MS. However, to date no randomized controlled trial has quantified the effects of Pilates on mood outcomes among people with MS. My proposed study is a randomized controlled trial that will quantify and compare the effects of 8-weeks of supervised or home-based Pilates, to a wait-list control, on mood among people with MS. Participants are currently being recruited through established methods, in collaboration with MS Ireland, and it is envisaged the intervention will commence in the immediate future. Keep an eye out for my next blog, which will hopefully provide an update on the study……..

Karl Fleming is a postgraduate student in the PESS Department. View Karl’s Profile here.

Karl’s Email Address: Karl.Fleming@ul.ie

Tagged with: