Randomized controlled trial of physical activity, cognition, and walking in multiple sclerosis

Brian M. Sandroff, Rachel E. Klaren, Lara A. Pilutti, Deirdre Dlugonski, Ralph H.B. Benedict, Robert W. Motl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present study adopted a randomized controlled trial design and examined the effect of a physical activity behavioral intervention on cognitive and walking performance among persons with MS who have mild or moderate disability status. A total of 82 MS patients were randomly allocated into intervention or wait-list control conditions. The intervention condition received a theory-based program for increasing physical activity behavior that was delivered via the Internet, and one-on-one video chat sessions with a behavior-change coach. Participants completed self-report measures of physical activity and disability status, and underwent the oral Symbol Digit Modalities Test (SDMT) and 6-minute walk (6MW) test before and after the 6-month period. Analysis using mixed-model ANOVA indicated a significant time x condition x disability group interaction on SDMT scores (p = 0.02, partial-η2 = 0.08), such that persons with mild disability in the intervention condition demonstrated a clinically meaningful improvement in SDMT scores (∼6 point change). There was a further significant time x condition interaction on 6MW distance (p = 0.02, partial-η2 = 0.07), such that those in the intervention condition demonstrated an increase in 6MW distance relative to those in the control group. The current study supports physical activity as a promising tool for managing cognitive impairment and impaired walking performance in persons with MS, and suggests that physical activity might have specific effects on cognition and non-specific effects on walking performance in this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)363-372
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neurology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014


  • Cognition
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Physical activity
  • Walking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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