Cognition and exercise

Cognitive problems are among the more hidden symptoms, which affect some people with MS.

Research indicates that exercise can help with cognition.

Many people with MS also benefit from various strategies, which they use to manage their cognitive problems, like in the video from the MS Society.

Watch the MS Society Video here

We often hear about maintaining/boosting our cognitive reserve and keeping our brain healthy. Here are two pages of advice from the MS Trust:

According to the MS Trust, the ways to encourage a brain healthy lifestyle include:

  • regular exercise
  • maintaining healthy weight
  • avoid smoking
  • limiting alcohol
  • continuing to take medications that your doctor has prescribed
  • keeping your mind active (through reading, writing, creative activities, puzzles/sudoku/crosswords).

You may also have heard about taking up a new hobby, getting enough sleep or using “mind-games” on the phone/computer etc. Some question if these types of screen mind-games help with cognition. Life is not lived in a 2D world on a screen and by only challenging certain parts of your brain, you might miss the bigger picture. Visuospatial abilities are for instance also a part of cognition. These abilities refer to the way you relate visual information to the space around you (e.g. walking through a doorway, without bumping into the door frame). These abilities can’t be practised within a 2D screen game. One thing is for sure – screen games can easily add hours to what might already be a sedentary lifestyle which everyone is guilty of doing, especially nowadays. 

So why not challenge your cognition by gradually adding more exercise into your daily routine! If you need a little inspiration, this link from the MS Trust is definitely worth a read

Can you dance the Cog-Fog Away?

Adding cognitive challenges to your existing exercise programme:

Another way to challenge yourself could be to add cognitive challenges to your existing exercise routine e.g. next time you do calf raises on the spot either in sitting or standing by firm support - why not count back from 100 in threes every time you raise up on your toes.


You could count back the months as you raise up your pelvis when doing the bridging exercise in lying.

Why not make up your own cognitive challenge. Be aware of safety though, as adding cognitive challenges to your exercises may make balancing more difficult.

Play it safe by using exercises in sitting, standing by a firm support or have someone close by you for assistance. Safety above all during this time of social isolation.