Pilates and Multiple Sclerosis….. the story continues……… Karl Fleming

Greetings again out there in Blog land, I am back to update you on my research endeavours over the last few months. The last time I spoke to you, I was at the beginning of the recruitment phase for a feasibility study seeking to quantify and compare the effects of 8-weeks of supervised or home-based Pilates, to a wait-list control, on mood among people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Participants were recruited through established methods, in collaboration with MS Ireland. I taught the supervised classes two nights per week. The home-based group followed a DVD of a Pilates instructional class, which I designed and recorded. This class comprised a section on basic principles espoused during the performance of the specific exercises, followed by a beginners’ class routine.   Unfortunately, recruitment did not go as well as hoped, and the trial emerged with a small sample size. Qualitative feedback was sought on participants perceptions of feasibility, barriers and benefits of the programme. This information was critical to the rationale of the second phase of this project, namely, to quantify and compare the effects of 8-weeks of an immediate start home-based Pilates, to a delayed-start control condition. This appropriately powered trial is now underway, following a more effective national recruitment strategy.

Keep an eye out for my next blog, which will hopefully provide an update on this ongoing trial…..

On a final note, I have finally managed to place my foot on the first rung of the publication ladder, with a paper titled “The Effects of Pilates on Mental Health Outcomes: A Meta-Analysis of Controlled Trials” recently being published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine. Pilates resulted in significant, large, heterogeneous reductions in depressive and anxiety symptoms, and feelings of fatigue, and increases in feelings of energy. Though the review included a small number of controlled trials with small sample sizes and non-active control conditions of variable quality, the available evidence reviewed supported that Pilates improves mental health outcomes.

This is the first review to support mental health benefits of Pilates, expanding on previous systematic reviews of the benefits of Pilates on chronic pain, functional ability, body composition, flexibility, dynamic balance and muscular endurance. Alternative non- pharmacologic options to manage mental health outcomes are constantly being sought. Population-based and experimental evidence of traditional modes of exercise support mental health benefits among healthy and chronically-ill populations. The present results suggest Pilates offers a different exercise choice that favourably demonstrates potential reduction in symptoms of depression, anxiety and fatigue.

Please feel free to track it down here.

The abstract has been accepted for presentation at ACSM’s 65th Annual Meeting, 9th World Congress on Exercise is Medicine, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.

Karl Fleming is a tutor for the National Council for Exercise and Fitness (NCEF) and a Postgraduate Researcher in the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences at the University of Limerick.  His current area of interest focusses on the effects of exercise namely Pilates, on mental health outcomes among persons with multiple sclerosis.  You can contact Karl via email on karl.fleming@ul.ie.


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