There is growing evidence that exercise slows progression and improves some symptoms for people suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive, degenerative neurological condition, which reveals itself differently in each individual. The development of Parkinson’s challenges those diagnosed to remain active while the condition restricts their motor-neuron control, leading to the gradual degradation of physical control and ability. Some of the common symptoms of Parkinson’s include tremors, muscle rigidity and freezing, slowed movement and lethargy.
Exercise might feel like the last thing those with Parkinson’s want to do but there is increasing recognition that regular, intense exercise is crucial and can provide immense benefits in all stages of the diseases’ progression. A 2014 study supported by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council found that exercise improved balance, mobility, fear of falling and quality of life in a controlled trial of patients with Parkinson’s (Brooks, 2014).
The Challenges of Parkinson’s
Parkinson’s is not just an old person’s disease, and challenges all those who are diagnosed to live the best life they can with the limits imposed by the disease. It is a debilitating condition affecting balance, flexibility, co-ordination, gait, fatigue levels and leads to feelings of social isolation and depression. Stress and tension only exacerbate symptoms.
The right medication and support after diagnosis can make all the difference to quality of life and one of the most difficult yet vital recommendations is to keep active (Schlender, 2015). There are many benefits to regular exercise, even for people without the condition, and such advantages are even more important for those with Parkinson’s.
The Benefits of Exercise
An excellent advantage of physical activity for those with Parkinson’s is the opportunity to meet others who are dealing with similar issues, realising that you are not alone and interacting with like-minded individuals, positively influencing mental state.
Regular exercise can improve the symptoms of Parkinson’s and it has a positive effect on quality of life, these benefits include (Better Health Channel, 2012):
- Greater muscle strength and flexibility
- Increased cardiovascular fitness
- Improved coordination and balance
- Improved posture
- Reduced muscle cramping
- Greater confidence in performing daily tasks
- Reduced stress levels
- Improved joint mobility
- Combating depression
Consistency and intensity are important to see the benefits from exercise on Parkinson’s symptoms. Some general recommendations include:
- Aim for at least 15 minutes a day
- Thoroughly stretch, warm up and cool down
- Start with the easiest exercises, working up as fitness increases
- Try to perform each movement to best of ability
- If you feel tired, stop and rest
- Stop any exercise that causes pain
- Try to make exercising fun!
Exercise takes many forms, from Yoga to Dancing, even Boxing, you can choose to do what you enjoy. Consult your physician for specific recommendations on exercising and look for Parkinson’s specific fitness groups in your local area or contact Parkinson’s NSW on our free InfoLine 1800 644 189.
Parkinson’s NSW is the only organisation in NSW providing free support services including a free InfoLine which is staffed by health professionals, counselling and support groups to people living with Parkinson’s, their families and carers.
Better Health Channel. (2012). Parkinson’s Disease. Retrieved from Better Health Channel: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Parkinson’s_disease_explained
Brooks, M. (2014). Exercise Has Benefits in Parkinson’s Disease. Retrieved May 13, 2015, from Medscape: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/838128
Petzinger, G. M. (2009). Does Exercise Impact Parkinson’s? Retrieved from Parkinson’s Disease Foundation: http://www.pdf.org/en/parkinson_exercise_impact
Schlender, S. (2015, January). Exercise: New Prescription for Parkinsons Disease. Retrieved from Voice of America: http://www.voanews.com/content/exercise-new-prescription-for-parkinsons-disease/2616831.html