Chipping Norton man with multiple sclerosis coaches others to Stay Active

A 50-year-old man from Chipping Norton is hosting ‘Staying Active’ sessions for the MS Society – in the hope others with the condition will get involved and sign up too.
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Phil Evans was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2004, when he was 30. He’d gone blind in one eye and it took away his ability to walk. He went to hospital and found out he had the condition a week later, with an MRI scan. He believes he’d been living with MS for years as he’d previously had more minor symptoms including double vision and weakness in his legs.

Mr Evans found out about the MS Society’s ‘Staying Active with MS’ sessions through Facebook and he now hosts them. They’re held online once a month and offer people with MS the chance to find out about various sports and ways to get active.

Previous sessions have covered football, swimming, bowls and sailing. They involve experts, sports people and people with MS who take part in the activity who share their experiences of what being involved means to them.

Phil Evans who is encouraging others with MS to join the Staying Active sessionsPhil Evans who is encouraging others with MS to join the Staying Active sessions
Phil Evans who is encouraging others with MS to join the Staying Active sessions

Mr Evans said: “I’m a big believer in trying to empower people. Lots of people say ‘I can’t do this’ but I say ‘you’ve got to try’.

“Staying active is good for your body. It doesn’t matter where you start from, the more you do the better you’re going to get. It’s also important mental health wise for people with MS. Exercise is your social muscle. If you don’t get out and about you will distance yourself and these sessions are a chance to socialise online. The worst that’s going to happen is you’ll make a friend.”

Phil describes his diagnosis as a ‘slap in the face’ and says it took him a couple of years to come to terms with it. He’s used exercise as a way of managing the condition and taking control.

When he was first diagnosed he tried various things including tai chi, aqua therapy, Pilates and yoga. He’s now a fully qualified yoga teacher and teaches accessible classes. He says: “No-one can tell you what things are going to be personally like for you with your MS. No-one was coming to save me and I felt like I was the one who needed to do something.”

Phil Evans took control of his own condition and enjoys a range of activitiesPhil Evans took control of his own condition and enjoys a range of activities
Phil Evans took control of his own condition and enjoys a range of activities

Mr Evans moved to Oxfordshire in 2016 to live with his girlfriend – she also has MS and the pair met on Facebook. They’re now married. He says he’s really passionate about hosting the Staying Active sessions and getting more people with MS involved:

Tracey Harrison is from the MS Society: “MS can be debilitating, exhausting and unpredictable. Symptoms are different for everyone and can mild or severe and include fatigue, pain and mobility issues. We know that exercise can improve mood, muscle strength and some MS symptoms.

“That’s why we set up these sessions – so people at every stage of MS can consider activities they might be interested in and how they could work for them. They can hear from others living with MS as well as sports people. It’s also a chance to have a chat and find out about others’ experiences.”

The next session focuses on rugby and is happening on October 2 at 6pm. To sign up see here.

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