Exercise is a part of healthy living for everyone. However, for people with Parkinson’s disease, exercise is a vital component of their treatment. Exercise helps maintain balance, mobility and daily living activities. Exercise is associated with a better sense of wellbeing across all stages and severity of the disease.
Research has shown that exercise can improve gait, balance, tremor, flexibility, grip strength, and motor coordination. Exercise such as walking on a treadmill and biking have all been shown to provide benefits, as have exercises like tai chi and yoga.
There is agreement among physicians and physical therapists that improved mobility in Parkinson’s patients decreases the risk of falls and other complications associated with the disease process. Practicing movements (physical therapy, occupational therapy, and participating in an exercise program) improves mobility. It is known that people who are not diagnosed with Parkinson’s who exercise intensely (such as running or biking) have fewer changes in their brains caused by aging. Studies in animals suggest that Parkinson’s is also mproved by exercise. Many neurologists in the National Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence network recommend intense exercise to their patients and also to people who are worried about getting Parkinson’s because of a family connection (genetics).
Parkinson’s patients, as well as everyone else, will benefit the most with consistent exercise. It has been shown that people with Parkinson’s show significant gains in balance and mobility after 6 months of consistently participating in an exercise program. Greater intensity equals greater benefits for those with Parkinson’s disease and those without it. Experts also recommend that people with Parkinson’s, especially those in the early stages, exercise at high intensity for as long as possible and as often as possible.
Any exercise program will be beneficial, but I suggest anyone with Parkinson’s disease to consult with their primary care physician or physical therapist. In general, anything a Parkinson’s patient can do without injuring him or her self will provide a benefit. Formal exercise programs, fitness classes, and personal training sessions will offer all fitness components: strength, balance, coordination, flexibility, and endurance. Each of these areas has been shown to provide a benefit to people with Parkinson’s, and none should be overlooked. A person with Parkinson’s needs to find something that works for them - a program that can be started and continued.
Some examples of exercise programs for people with Parkinson’s disease might include: sports training, walking or running on the treadmill or outdoors, biking outdoors, stationary biking, resistance training, fitness classes, yoga, tai chi, workout tapes at home, balance classes, Silver Sneaker type classes, etc. In other words, people with Parkinson’s need to find the program that they enjoy so they will continue long term with it.
For additional information about Parkinson’s Disease and exercise, contact a physician, physical therapist or a personal trainer (Janet Hunt 256-614-3530).
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.
By: Janet Hunt