What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects the dopamine producing neurons in the brain. It is characterized by a resting tremor, slowness of movements, rigidity, gait disturbance and postural instability.
How Can Exercise Help?
Exercise has been shown to improve symptoms and slow the progression of Parkinson’s Disease. It is especially effective if introduced at an early stage after diagnosis. The dopaminergic neurons in the brain are highly responsive to exercise, meaning that exercise can stimulate dopamine synthesis and therefore reduce the presence of symptoms.
Exercise can improve:
- Grip strength
- Motor coordination
- Mental health
- Quality of life
Participating in a structured individualized exercise program also allows the individual to play an active role in their management plan, giving back some power and control that many feel they lose after diagnosis.
What Type of Exercise is Best?
There is no one type of exercise that will work for everyone with Parkinson’s Disease. This is as there are many different signs, symptoms and challenges, with the ability for individuals to present quite differently.
Performing resistance exercises that improve lower limb muscle mass and strength can help improve balance, walking stride length, speed and distance.
Aerobic exercise will improve your heart and lung function, making activities of daily living easier and more sustainable in the long term. Treadmill walking has been shown to have immediate and long-term benefits on gait in individuals with Parkinson’s Disease. Cycling has also been shown to reduce muscle rigidity and slowed movements.
Individuals with Parkinson’s Disease often have difficulty performing two tasks at once. This is especially the case when walking as gait patterns are already altered with Parkinson’s Disease. BY incorporating dual-tasking elements into a program, it has been shown to improve gait velocity, stride length and balance.
The following types of exercise have also shown to have benefits:
- Exercises that promote attention and learning
- High intensity aerobic exercise
- Exercises that challenge the individual to change tempo, direction or activity
Are There Any Exercise Considerations?
Everyone with Parkinson’s Disease can present with a variety of symptoms or areas of concern. So it is important to seek the right advice when beginning an exercise program. Get in contact with an Exercise Physiologist who has experience working with individuals who have Parkinson’s Disease and they will help tailor a program to you.
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