When my business partner, Mariska Breland, was diagnosed with MS in 2002, she was bombarded with information but left without straightforward answers. As an athlete and lover of all things fitness, she was shocked at the lack of quality information or resources regarding exercise and movement. Sadly, this is the same story I have heard from hundreds of other people diagnosed with MS and the clients I have worked with over the past 18 years. We were thrilled to hear that the doctors and nurses at the Weill Cornell MS Center embrace fitness and exercise as a cornerstone of their treatment of people with MS, and that they wanted us to describe what we do and how to get access to our classes.
When Mariska and I first started out on this journey, there was very little research supporting the best types of exercise for MS. Most people were simply told to stretch. Mariska and I considered the questions people were asking: Should I work out? For how long? Is this exercise okay for me? Will this make my MS worse? We developed a comprehensive program to address all these questions and more. Our methods are based on in-depth personal and professional experience, and our trainings are specifically designed to prevent disability and improve the symptoms of MS.
We have been traveling the world educating other Pilates teachers, personal trainers, and physical therapists in our method since 2013 and we are excited to now offer an in-home option. Our Neuro Studio programming takes a look at common MS symptoms and incorporates corrective exercises in daily workouts. We keep all the workouts between 20-45 minutes so that people can fit in movement into their daily life.
One thing we are determined to do is to educate people about Pilates and the benefits of Pilates for people with MS. The first question we are always asked is, "Is pilates like yoga?" The answer is no. Pilates is different because it is the only form of exercise that puts an emphasis on the spine. When Joseph Pilates created contrology (which is now simply called Pilates), he recognized that our spinal health is crucial to our overall mental and physical wellbeing. Without strong spinal and "core" muscles, life's daily tasks become difficult. The beauty of Pilates as a rehabilitative method is that it is easy to modify and tailor to each client's specific needs, and every session focuses on improving balance, mobility, and strength -- all things that can be impacted by MS flare-ups or deteriorate over the course of the disease.
The biggest obstacle we find is that people wait until their weakness, balance, spasticity, or foot drop becomes a major issue. We do not want to be alarmists, but if you are diagnosed with MS, maintaining function is crucial and we recommend starting a serious exercise program, such as ours immediately. In Mariska's case, like many others, her spasticity, foot drop, and weakness “snuck up” on her. We want to educate others about these symptoms and show them how they can be mitigated with preventative exercise.
Our ultimate goal is to optimize function and limit the impact of disability, we are dedicated to improving the quality of movement and quality of life for people living with neurological disease. We are thrilled to be able to offer scientifically-backed and studio-tested workouts in a format that is convenient and affordable, and we'd like to invite you to try the site free for five days.