According to a study at the University of Roehampton, exercise can have a beneficial effect upon the psychological, sociological and physical wellbeing of people with epilepsy.The research also provides information about the barriers to exercising faced by some people with epilepsy, and the different ways in which people manage the impact of uncontrolled seizures on their exercise routines.The benefits of and barriers to exercise in people with epilepsy have been examined before; however no qualitative studies, which investigate people’s individual experiences, have been conducted to date.For the present study, four people with epilepsy, aged between 23 and 38 years, were interviewed every three to four months, for one year, in order to obtain information about their exercising experiences. During first interviews, subjects were asked a general question about  their experiences of exercising, and subsequent sessions developed the themes identified in the first one. Interviews (16 of which were conducted in total) lasted between 1.5 and 4 hours.The information obtained during the interviews was analysed using a method called ‘narrative enquiry’, which aims to extract the personal and human elements of experiences over time.The data showed that exercise was one of the main methods used by the participants to increase physical and mental well-being, and the most common activities undertaken by the subjects were shown to be swimming and running.Seizure frequency varied between participants, from at least one per week to only one per year, and the way in which they dealt with the impact of seizures on their exercise routine differed greatly. Generally, a higher seizure frequency had a more negative impact on the subject’s exercise frequency. However, whilst some participants were worried and fearful about exercising, one participant didn’t acknowledge any impact of high seizure frequency on her exercise routine.Being prevented from exercising was largely associated with a feeling of frustration, which differed in intensity with time and across participants. Anger and low self confidence also featured when subjects weren’t able to exercise. Another emotion that became apparent during the interviews was anxiety, not only due to personal concerns, but also due to the mixed attitudes of relatives, carers, friends and even medical professionals about the safety of exercising.These negative feelings about the barriers to exercising serve to emphasise its benefits.Finally, it had been suggested to some that yoga might be a safer, more suitable exercise than swimming/running, but there was a sense that this was not as ‘good’ for fitness, which is interesting.Although this study was small, its narrative approach has highlighted the individual differences that exist between people with epilepsy who exercise. The authors write that “such individuality has not been presented through the use of quantitative research and would benefit from further qualitative investigation.”According to the authors, future research should explore how people with epilepsy can overcome the barriers they face concerning exercise, and encourage more people to enjoy its benefits.The study was published in the scientific journal Epilepsy and Behavior.Author: Dr Özge Özkaya