fitMS: Group Exercise for People with MS and other disabilities
Currently, there are about 400,000 people in the United States who have been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis . This is a progressive autoimmune disease that affects more women than men and is usually diagnosed between age 20 and 50, though it can be diagnosed at any age. As the disease progresses, the body is unable to send nerve impulses as quickly or efficiently in as it could in the past, causing muscle plasticity, weakness, cognitive, visual and sensory changes. People become less active, and as a result, lose strength, endurance, and ultimately, independence. This is why it is so important to continue physical activity, especially after diagnosis, in order to maintain and even improve strength, energy, flexibility, coordination, and mobility, all crucial aspects to one's independence.
fitMS™ is a post-rehabilitation healthy lifestyle program that includes fitness, education, and support. This integrated group exercise class incorporates Tai Chi, Yoga, Pilates, and stability ball techniques to improve flexibility, range of motion, coordination, strength, gait, posture and balance - key components to maintaining an independent lifestyle. The fitMS™ NeuroBalance Center, NFP (not for profit), offers onsite and refers to a host of programs and services to help people living with Multiple Sclerosis and other chronic, progressive disabling conditions optimize their quality of life. These include educational programs, counseling, physical and massage therapy, alternative medicine, nutritional counseling, assistance with social security disability application, insurance and finances, therapeutic horseback riding and more. The NeuroBalance Center is continually expanding its post-rehabilitation programs. Its mission is to promote healthy lifestyle changes and a sense of community with people "working together to live better". The focus is on improving physical and emotional well-being by minimizing the impact of their conditions on their daily lives. Counseling, specialized fitness programs (fitMS™), nutrition, therapeutic massage, therapeutic horseback riding, chiropractic, acupuncture, allergy and food sensitivity testing, education, assistance with social security disability applications, support and a sense of community (all available through the fitMS™ NeuroBalance Center) promotes a proactive, integrated approach to managing Multiple Sclerosis and similar conditions.
Joy Wagner, fitMS™ Founder
The founder of fitMS™, Joy Wagner, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2001, but had been living with the symptoms for eleven years prior. After being diagnosed, Joy began searching for ways to improve her health and regain her independence. Using her nursing background and through her exploration and discovery through living with MS, Joy developed a rehabilitation program for herself to improve her balance, strength, flexibility, and coordination, as well as her dietary and emotional heath. When able to return to work, Joy began working as a Multiple Sclerosis nurse, educating patients and healthcare professionals about MS, helping patients manage medications, treatments, side effects, and life in general with Multiple Sclerosis. She is sharing her knowledge gained from her own experiences and works to show those living with Multiple Sclerosis and other conditions how to improve their lives through fitMS™ classes and the other NeuroBalance Center programs.
Joy is a registered nurse with a degree from the University of Iowa. She practiced nursing and taught in the health field since 1982 where she worked at the University of Iowa Hospital in the acute care pediatric unit, then later moved to Chicago where she began working at Children's Memorial Hospital in the intensive care unit. She then left to begin working with Children's Home Health Care but currently works as a Multiple Sclerosis nurse, helping patients manage medications, treatments, side effects, and life with MS in-general.
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Joy received the MS Leader of Hope Award in the category of Mobility at the National MS Society Conference in Denver in November, 2004 to honor the practical, confident, and hopeful approaches she has taken towards the challenges of living with Multiple Sclerosis. Winners of this award are chosen for providing inspiration and innovative and concrete solutions to MS symptoms.
For additional information about MS or to locate other programs in your area, please visit NCPAD's website at