Project Summary

PCORI has identified multiple sclerosis (MS) as an important research topic. People with MS, clinicians, and others want to learn how different treatment strategies, aimed at changing specific symptoms or the overall course of MS, affect patients’ symptoms and quality of life. To address this issue, PCORI launched a funding initiative in 2015 on Treatment of Multiple Sclerosis. This research project is one of the studies PCORI awarded as part this program.

This research project is in progress. PCORI will post the research findings on this page within 90 days after the results are final.

What is the research about?

Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is an illness in which the body’s immune system attacks the nerves, causing nerve damage. People with MS often have trouble moving, which can make it hard to do daily activities and can lead to more disability. Exercise can decrease MS symptoms and make moving easier. However, some people with MS may not be able to get to a gym or may not have access to exercise equipment.

In this study, researchers are looking to see if an at-home exercise program can help improve mobility and quality of life for people with MS. The team is comparing the at-home exercise program to one that takes place in a facility such as a gym, where trained staff are available. In addition, the team is looking at whether people have better mobility and quality of life when they get to choose where they exercise, compared with when the research team assigns them by chance to exercise at home or in a facility.

Who can this research help?

Results from this study may help people with MS and their doctors decide whether they should exercise at home or in a facility. Medical and exercise professionals may also use the results to design effective exercise programs for people with MS.

What is the research team doing?

The research team is working with nine sites around the country to enroll 400 adults with MS who are able to walk slowly. Half of the participants get to choose between a facility-based program or an at-home program. The research team assigns the other half to one of these two programs by chance. Both programs last four months. The programs have the same content, which is based on research evidence and tailored to each participant. Participants do aerobic and resistance training for 30 to 60 minutes twice per week. Trained coaches give instructions at the start of both programs. They also motivate participants to exercise during the program.

Participants in the facility-based program exercise at a gym or rehab center. A coach supervises participants in this program in person as needed.

The other program takes place at participants’ homes. Participants exercise using a manual of exercises or videos provided through an online portal. A coach supervises participants as needed through online video calls such as Skype or Zoom.

The research team is following up with participants to see whether the programs have improved their walking, mobility, quality of life, and self-confidence to exercise, and how often people exercise. In addition, the team is looking at whether people exercise more and have better quality of life when they can choose where their exercise program takes place compared with those who don’t get to choose where they exercise.

People with MS and medical and exercise professionals are helping to design the study, choose what to measure, and develop the exercise programs for people with MS.

Research methods at a glance

Design Elements Description
Design Randomized controlled trial
Population Adults ages 18 to 65 years with MS, impaired mobility, the ability to ambulate at least 25 feet with or without assistance, who take between 6 and 180 seconds to complete the Timed 25-Foot Walk test

Delivery mode

  • Home-based exercise program
  • Facility-based exercise program (i.e., gym or rehabilitation center)

Ability to choose delivery mode

  • Receipt of delivery mode by choice
  • Receipt of delivery mode by chance

Primary: walking ability

Secondary: social participation, vocational participation, quality of life, self-efficacy for exercise, adoption of exercise

Timeframe 1-year follow-up for primary outcome

Project Information

Deborah A. Backus, PhD, PT
Robert Motl, PhD, MS
Shepherd Center
Comparative Effectiveness of an Exercise Intervention Delivered via Telerehabilitation and Conventional Mode of Delivery^

Key Dates

September 2017
December 2024

Study Registration Information

^This project was previously titled: Comparing Home and Facility-Based Exercise to Improve Mobility in Patients with Multiple Sclerosis


Health Conditions Health Conditions These are the broad terms we use to categorize our funded research studies; specific diseases or conditions are included within the appropriate larger category. Note: not all of our funded projects focus on a single disease or condition; some touch on multiple diseases or conditions, research methods, or broader health system interventions. Such projects won’t be listed by a primary disease/condition and so won’t appear if you use this filter tool to find them. View Glossary
Populations Populations PCORI is interested in research that seeks to better understand how different clinical and health system options work for different people. These populations are frequently studied in our portfolio or identified as being of interest by our stakeholders. View Glossary
Intervention Strategy Intervention Strategies PCORI funds comparative clinical effectiveness research (CER) studies that compare two or more options or approaches to health care, or that compare different ways of delivering or receiving care. View Glossary
State State The state where the project originates, or where the primary institution or organization is located. View Glossary
Last updated: October 18, 2023