Houston pilot program uses the cool of the pool to get MS sufferers moving again

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- For those with Multiple Sclerosis, it was once taboo to exercise. Now, the brain child of ambassadors from the National MS Society, the YMCA of Greater Houston and doctors from UTHealth are giving people with MS a different prescription: get moving!

The program called "Moving Stronger" is offered at the Trotter Family YMCA in the Galleria area and the Monty Ballard YMCA in Katy.

The idea for the program is simple: a mix of yoga, strength training and aquatics specifically modified for those with MS.

What makes the classes different from other workout classes is the room and cool pool temperatures.

"When I was first diagnosed many, many years ago, we were told not to exercise," MS Society ambassador Lisa Sailor said as she got out of her wheelchair and into a lift that would lower her into the pool for a class at the Trotter Y.

"People thought when you exercised your body temperature gets elevated and so symptoms may come back," Dr. Leorah Freeman with UTHealth said of the old understanding. "We know better now, we know that exercise is beneficial for those with MS and that it can improve their walking ability. It can also improve their fatigue level and some suggest it can even improve cognition."

Some of the classes are even taught by an instructor with MS, like Cheryl Stitt, who shares her story of living with MS with aquatics class participants.

"It's something that I wanted to share with other people, my experiences, knowing how they may feel," she said.

Participants in the program are assessed before and after the twice a week, 12 week program that is offered free by the two YMCA locations. Once results are in from the program, advocates plan to take the pilot program national.

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