Pilot Study Shows Promise for Remote Aerobic Walking Exercise in Improving Cognitive Function for People with Multiple Sclerosis

Summary: A pilot study found that remote aerobic walking exercise training can improve cognitive processing speed impairment in fully ambulatory persons with multiple sclerosis (MS). Participants in the intervention condition showed strong improvements in their cognitive processing speed scores after 16 weeks, while the stretching condition did not demonstrate similar improvements.

The results are promising for individuals with MS who experience cognitive processing speed impairment and provide a more inclusive solution for remote exercise programs.

Key Facts:

  1. A pilot study has shown that remote aerobic walking exercise training can be a promising method for improving cognitive processing speed impairment in fully ambulatory persons with multiple sclerosis (MS).
  2. The study involved 25 fully ambulatory persons with MS who were prescreened for deficits in cognitive processing speed, with 19 completing the study as prescribed.
  3. Participants who were randomly assigned to 16 weeks of remotely delivered and supported aerobic walking exercise training demonstrated strong improvements in their cognitive processing speed, as measured by the Symbol Digit Modalities Test (SDMT), relative to participants who were assigned to the control condition of remotely delivered and supported stretching and range-of-motion activities.

Source: Kessler Foundation

Results of a pilot study funded by Kessler Foundation showed that remote aerobic walking exercise training is a feasible and highly promising method for improving cognitive processing speed impairment in fully ambulatory persons with multiple sclerosis (MS).

The findings of this single-blind randomized control trial support the design of a randomized, controlled trial in large sample of persons with MS

The research team followed a group of 25 fully ambulatory persons with MS who were prescreened for deficits in cognitive processing speed; 19 completed the study as prescribed.

The researchers employed the Symbol Digit Modalities Test (SDMT), a widely used neuropsychological test for assessing information processing speed in individuals with MS, and the California Verbal Learning Test (CVLT-II) as a widely used test of verbal learning and memory. Evaluations were conducted at baseline and after 16 weeks.

This shows a woman walking
Additionally, the study showed that the participants had high adherence rates to the exercise program, with an average of 80% of the prescribed sessions being completed. Credit: Neuroscience News

Participants were randomly assigned to 16 weeks of either remotely delivered and supported aerobic walking exercise training (intervention condition), or remotely delivered and supported stretching and range-of-motion activities (control condition).

Participants were provided with wearable fitness trackers and weekly video consultations with an exercise specialist to ensure proper technique, safety, and adherence to the prescribed exercise regimen.

The results of the study were promising. Participants who were randomly assigned into the intervention condition demonstrated strong improvements in their SDMT scores after the 16-week study period relative to participants who were randomly assigned into the stretching condition, indicating that the remotely delivered aerobic walking exercise training had a positive impact on their cognitive processing speed.

Additionally, the study showed that the participants had high adherence rates to the exercise program, with an average of 80% of the prescribed sessions being completed.

These findings are particularly significant because cognitive processing speed impairment is a common symptom of MS, affecting up to 70% of patients. Impairment is associated with reduced quality of life, increased unemployment, and decreased social functioning. With limited effective treatments available, this study is promising for individuals with this disabling symptom.

The remote delivery and support of the aerobic walking exercise training program also has major implications for the accessibility and convenience of care for individuals with MS. Many patients face barriers to attending in-person exercise programs, such as transportation issues or financial constraints.

This study demonstrates that remotely delivered exercise programs can be just as effective as traditional in-person interventions, providing a more inclusive solution for persons with MS.

The researchers are optimistic about the potential applications of their findings.

“Our study shows that remote aerobic walking exercise training is not only feasible but also might be efficacious for treating cognitive processing speed impairment in persons with MS,” said lead author Dr. Sandroff, senior research scientist in the Center for Neuropsychology and Neuroscience Research.

“We anticipate that these findings will encourage the development of more accessible, convenient, and broad-scale exercise interventions, ultimately leading to improved quality of life for those affected by this challenging disease.”

ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT05344040

About this exercise and multiple sclerosis research news

Author: Carolann Murphy
Source: Kessler Foundation
Contact: Carolann Murphy – Kessler Foundation
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original Research: Open access.
Feasibility of remotely delivered and supported aerobic walking exercise training for cognitive processing speed impairment in fully-ambulatory persons with multiple sclerosis” by Brian M. Sandroff et al. Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders


Abstract

Feasibility of remotely delivered and supported aerobic walking exercise training for cognitive processing speed impairment in fully-ambulatory persons with multiple sclerosis

Purpose

The current pilot, single-blind, randomized controlled trial (RCT) examined the feasibility of remotely-delivered and supported aerobic walking exercise training compared with an active control condition on cognitive processing speed (CPS) in 19 fully-ambulatory persons with multiple sclerosis (pwMS) who were pre-screened for impaired CPS.

Methods

Feasibility was assessed in the domains of process (e.g., recruitment), resource (e.g., monetary costs), management (e.g., time requirements), and scientific outcomes (i.e., treatment effect). Fully-ambulatory, but CPS-impaired pwMS were randomly assigned into either 16-weeks of home-based aerobic walking exercise or home-based stretching and range-of-motion activities. Both conditions involved delivery of informational newsletters and one-on-one, online video chats with a behavior coach. Participants across both conditions tracked their activity using highly accurate wearable motion sensors. Treatment-blinded assessors administered the Symbol Digit Modalities Test (SDMT) remotely before and after the 16-week study period.

Results

The study was cost-effective, accessible, and acceptable. The intervention further was safe. Adherence and compliance rates across both conditions exceeded 80%. There was an overall moderate effect for change in SDMT score between the conditions (d = 0.42). The intervention was associated with a 4.8-point improvement in SDMT scores (d = 0.70; 10% increase) compared with a 1-point improvement for the control condition (d = 0.09; 2% increase).

Conclusions

This remotely-delivered and supported aerobic walking exercise training intervention was safe and feasible for fully-ambulatory, CPS-impaired pwMS. The pattern of results, including the promising effects on CPS, support the design and implementation of an appropriately-powered RCT on this approach for managing CPS impairment in a large MS sample.

Join our Newsletter
I agree to have my personal information transferred to AWeber for Neuroscience Newsletter ( more information )
Sign up to receive our recent neuroscience headlines and summaries sent to your email once a day, totally free.
We hate spam and only use your email to contact you about newsletters. You can cancel your subscription any time.