For people living with Multiple Sclerosis, some of the simple things many of us take for granted can be daunting. And, too often that leads to a withdrawal of activities for the person living with the disease. A group of local researchers is trying to change that by helping MS patients stay mobile one step at a time.

With every step, Rob Loewen is fighting to keep his independence. He was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1992 but says he's been living with the symptoms much longer-symptoms that have made life a challenge.

"You plan a day and think here's a few things I want to achieve today. And at the end of the day, you say, I did nothing. That's pretty hard to live with," says Loewen.

It's Loewen's determination to stay active that has led him to be screened for a new pilot project in Saskatoon. Researchers are working with MS patients to maintain their independence by engaging in exercises that promote mobility and help them with everyday activities.

"In this particular case, regular mobility involves us doing things we take for granted, like getting across a crosswalk in time, getting up a flight of stairs without having to hold onto a handrail," says lead researcher with the project Larry Brawley.

Brawley says those seemingly easy tasks can be daunting for MS patients. And, too often, that results in a loss of confidence and a withdrawal from activities all together. "Our motto here would be rather than run, our motto for this program would be we'd like to get people to walk before they run to make sure their mobility is preserved."

Dr. Katherine Knox is the director of the Saskatoon Multiple Sclerosis Clinic. She says preserving that mobility is especially important as MS is a progressive disease.

"People who maintain an active lifestyle and activity program that focuses on maintaining balance, range of motion and aerobic conditioning, they tend to live better with their disease," says Dr. Knox.

People like Rob Loewen. Although he has good days and bad, he applauds any effort to help those in similar situations stay on their feet, and fight MS, every step of the way.

"I'm always looking for the next challenge to enhance my quality of life and there's no shortage of those," says Loewen.

The researchers are currently accepting participants for their research pilot project. For more information, call 966-8659.