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Thinking outside the box about exercise and MS

Wed, 2013-10-23 10:57 - Posted by Tim Worner, Dorset & Hants Sportability

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What do you say to someone with MS who is no longer able to participate in the exercise or activity they used to do? What do you suggest they do?

Tim, who has primary progressive MS, is the area organiser for Dorset & Hants Sportability, a charity which provides sport and challenging pursuits for people with paralysis. He shares his experiences of keeping active with MS.

Tim's story

Shortly after my diagnosis, I had to retire from my job through ill health. I also had to give up my beloved motorbike. My symptoms include fatigue, mobility and problems with balance. I can walk short distances with the help of a pair of crutches, and use a mobility scooter. 

I’ve learnt that we often need to “think outside the box” about sports and activity, both in terms of the activity and how it might help.

Riding for the Disabled

When I was young, my father taught me to horse ride. I hadn’t done it for many years, but realised it was an activity I enjoyed and wanted to get back into.

I had great trouble finding a suitable horse – but eventually I found Patrick. I will never forget my first ride: my balance was poor and I was wobbling so much I was thinking this might not be for me! But we persevered (through issues including painful leg cramps).

We started to going out on hacks through the school grounds. It was great leaving my crutches behind and having people seeing me as just another rider.

I have now ridden many different horses at stables in the area and whenever we are on holiday I try to get a ride. A real highlight was a two hour ride up a mountain side in Wyoming on a horse called Molly, along with a cowboy and his dog. Very difficult terrain and remote, so no chance of asking to get off and a car to fetch me!

Riding has proved to be very good both giving me a great sense of achievement and very good exercise; I’m sure it’s improved my balance and core stability. I would recommend it and know many others with MS have taken it up through local Riding for the Disabled (RDA) group.

Shooting as sport

I wanted to try another childhood activity: shooting. I would never have thought that it would help with dexterity and posture, as well as having social benefits.

I now go two or three times a week – it’s socially great, I’ve made many new friends. I find the cleaning and maintenance side, and reloading of ammunition, very therapeutic, as well as good for dexterity. Then there’s the history - what else can you use on a regular basis that was designed in 1860 or 1894?

Most types of shooting can be done standing or seated. Both clubs I belong to have been very welcoming; in fact, the National Small Bore Rifle Association (NSRA) is encouraging all its affiliated clubs to put on open days and events for disabled people this year.

What can you do?

So, what has this all meant for Tim? He’s very involved with Sportability, tries out lots of different activities and has made many new friends. He also gives loads of time to the MS Society - look out for him in the Activity zone at MS Life 2014 in Manchester.

And what does it mean for you? When you are discussing sport and activity with someone who has MS, think outside the box, and think new challenges! 

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Tim Worner, Dorset & Hants Sportability