Task-oriented exercise interventions may improve physical motor function in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), but results were inconclusive, according to a scoping review presented at the 2021 Annual Meeting of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers (CMSC) held October 25-28, 2021 in Orlando, Florida.

Exercise can support the cardiorespiratory and musculoskeletal health of patients with multiple sclerosis. Past research has indicated task-oriented exercise that is repetitive and goal-directed may improve motor function in patients with MS, but there is limited research comparing the benefit of these exercises with other forms of exercise. The researchers sought to describe task-oriented exercises utilized in research regarding patients with MS and to examine the effects of these exercises on motor function that distinguishes them from other exercises.

Researchers searched databases to identify studies published in 2000 and 2021 that analyzed the effects exercises had on motor function in patients with MS. They included randomized controlled trials, single group pre/post, and quasi-experimental design studies that examined how exercises, including those that were task-oriented, cardiorespiratory, or resistance-based, influenced motor function.

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Thirty-two studies satisfied review criteria. The studies analyzed interventions that included cardiorespiratory, resistance, neuromotor, and task-oriented training. Circuit formats, with varying frequencies (2 to 5 per week, for 2-18 weeks), were common in the 8 that involved task-oriented training (4 upper-extremity, 1 lower-extremity, 3 upper- and lower-extremity), which centered around walking, balance, agility, functional tasks, and hand dexterity, such as grasping and reaching.

Interventions appeared to assist patients with MS in improving walking and balance and gaining arm and hand function, but there was limited evidence indicating functional gains continued, the researchers reported.

“It is not currently possible to determine if task-oriented exercise effects on motor function are distinct from, or greater than, those elicited by other types of exercise,” the researchers stated. “The results indicate a need to systematically develop and compare targeted exercise intervention strategies to determine which are most effective for improving motor function for people with MS.”


Toledo-Aldana EA, Plandowski KE, Mang CS. A scoping review of task-oriented exercise effects on motor function in people with multiple sclerosis. Presented at: CMSC 2021 Annual Meeting; October 25-28, 2021; Orlando, Florida. Abstract REH11.