The ALS Association

Ice Bucket Challenge Progress
Carrie Munk
The ALS Association
(571) 319-3047



Exercise May Reduce ALS Risk

Washington, D.C. (April 25, 2014) — Research supported by The ALS Association indicates that exercise does not increase the risk for developing ALS and could be protective. The study was published in the journal Annals of Neurology.

ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects neurons (nerve cells) in the brain and the spinal cord. Eventually, people with ALS lose the ability to initiate and control muscle movement, which often leads to total paralysis and death within two to five years of diagnosis. There is no cure and no life-prolonging treatments for the disease. 

The role of exercise and physical exertion in ALS has been controversial. Previous studies have produced conflicting results but have generally been small or confounded by other flaws. To overcome these problems, a team of European researchers, led by Ettore Beghi, M.D., in Milan, Italy, interviewed more than 650 people with ALS and more than 1,100 matched healthy controls to determine their history of work and leisure-related physical activity. They found that overall physical activity was associated with a 35 percent reduced risk of ALS, whether the activity was due to occupation or leisure activity. Those engaging in more strenuous activity were at lower risk. As uncovered in previous studies, a history of repeated head trauma was associated with an increased risk for ALS.

“This important study adds further to our understanding of risk factors for ALS,” said Lucie Bruijn, Ph.D., M.B.A., Chief Scientist for The Association. “While the study was retrospective, rather than prospective, in design, the robust results provide confidence that exercise is not associated with an increased likelihood of developing ALS and may even offer some degree of protection. Further work will be needed to identify the reasons for these effects, which may offer us some new ideas for developing treatments.”

About The ALS Association
The ALS Association is the only national non-profit organization fighting Lou Gehrig’s Disease on every front.  By leading the way in global research, providing assistance for people with ALS through a nationwide network of chapters, coordinating multidisciplinary care through certified clinical care centers, and fostering government partnerships, The Association builds hope and enhances quality of life while aggressively searching for new treatments and a cure.  For more information about The ALS Association, visit our website at

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