Systematic Review of Exercise Studies in Persons with Multiple Sclerosis: Exploring the Quality of Interventions According to the Principles of Exercise Training Academic Article uri icon

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  • Introduction

    The objective of this systematic review is to explore the application and reporting of (i) the principles of exercise training in exercise trials, (ii) the components of exercise prescription, and (iii) the adherence towards the prescribed programmes in randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in persons with multiple sclerosis (pwMS).


    The MEDLINE, CINAHL, SPORTDiscus, PubMed and Embase electronic databases were searched from 1 January 2000 to 16 October 2020. RCTs comprising at least 3 weeks of aerobic and/or resistance exercise intervention in pwMS that reported at least one physiological outcome and were published in peer-reviewed journals were eligible for inclusion.


    Out of 52 RCTs included in this review, 58 intervention arms were examined. None applied more than four principles of exercise training. Specificity was addressed by 85%, progression by 33%, overload by 59%, initial values by 26%, reversibility by 0% and diminishing returns by 2% of trials. Fifty-two percent of trials reported all components of exercise prescription, and 3% of trials reported the level of adherence to the prescribed exercise.


    This systematic review reveals that exercise training principles were not respected in the majority of included RCTs. The weak quality of reported exercise interventions limits the interpretation of the studies' results and potentially leads to an underestimation of 'exercise as medicine' in pwMS. Also, the vague descriptions of exercise prescription and adherence impede the reproducibility of results. Future studies must attend to all principles of exercise training and provide transparent information on the prescribed and performed programmes to develop specific and valid exercise recommendations for pwMS.

    Systematic review registration

    CRD42020162671, 28/04/2020, PROSPERO.


  • Schlagheck, Marit L
  • Joisten, Niklas
  • Walzik, David
  • Wolf, Florian
  • Neil-Sztramko, Sarah
  • Bansi, Jens
  • Rademacher, Annette
  • Zimmer, Philipp

publication date

  • December 2021