Exercise is key to management of Parkinson's disease
The benefits of exercise are well known to manage a healthy body and promote our mood and wellbeing, nevertheless, in our busy lifestyles, we find it difficult to find the time and motivation to engage in it, and build it in to our routine. For individuals with Parkinson’s disease who also have muscle stiffness, slowness of movement, reduced balance, tremors and overall fatigue, this challenge to engage can be even greater. However, engaging in regular, tailored exercise is an extremely important, therapeutic method to help manage the condition of Parkinson’s disease. Exercising just 2.5 hours a week can slow the progression of the disease, as well as having other benefits including:
Helping you stay physically active and maintain independence
Improve your night’s sleep.
Improve your mood and wellbeing.
When should I start exercising?
As soon as possible! Parkinson’s disease is caused by the loss of nerve cells in a part of the brain called the Substantia Nigra, this leads to a reduction in a chemical transmitter called dopamine which plays an important role in controlling movement of the body. By the time Parkinson’s disease has been diagnosed as much as 40-60% of the dopamine has already gone, the reason that people don’t experience symptoms until this point is because the brain is able to compensate. Being able to take control and ownership over the management of the condition will empower you, and support the management of it.
What exercise should I be doing for Parkinson’s disease?
There isn’t one type of exercise to suit everyone with Parkinson’s disease as exercise needs to be tailored to suit the individual needs of the person and altered depending on the stage and progression of the disease. Some people are able to participate in much more intense exercise such as running or gym work, however for others chair based exercise would be more suitable. Some parts of the exercise should be a challenge, but generally a mix of different intensity exercises which focus on different elements of fitness is most beneficial. For example doing some walking for cardiovascular fitness as well as some specific balance exercises to optimise your balance and stretching to reduce muscle tightness.
Physiofit run a weekly Parkinson’s exercise class led by a PD warrior trained therapist based in Wilmslow. This specific type of high intensity neuroactive exercise class makes the most of the brains neuroplasticity and ability to retrain. There is also a popular boxing element added that improves trunk rotation through 1 to 1 work onto pads. Numbers are kept limited to ensure individual attention and all participants receive a pre-class assessment to identify specific needs and goals.
There are a wide variety of exercise types and formats but engaging in an activity which is enjoyable and fun will increase the likelihood of continuing to do it on a regular basis.
What if symptoms are more progressed?
No matter how advanced the condition, exercise is an important part of managing the symptoms to keep you safe and more confident. This might including focussing on everyday functional tasks for example practising getting up from a chair, turning from side to side or using resistance bands sat in a chair, tailoring the exercise to an appropriate level to maintain independence and mobility.
Can exercise worsen Parkinson’s disease?
Pushing yourself too hard or doing exercise with incorrect form can lead to injury as with anyone doing exercise, people with Parkinson’s may notice that their tremor worsens whilst exercising but this doesn’t mean it will worsen in the long term.
How hard should I push myself?
Everyone has a different tolerance to exercise, when you first start, keeping a diary to record how much exercise you do as well as when you took your medication and how you felt can help determine how best to exercise. Remember that symptoms will fluctuate and some days can feel better than others.
Who should I speak to about exercising with Parkinson’s disease?
At Physiofit we have specialist trained physiotherapists with experience and the knowledge for treating and supporting people with Parkinson’s disease. We can assess and recommend the best course of management for your condition no matter what stage you are at. This might include advice on appropriate sports or exercises classes as well as an individualised programme of exercise to suit your specific needs. They will also be able to discuss the best way to approach exercise to relieve your specific symptoms and manage your fatigue. As well as looking at exercise they can look at specific tasks and goals you may have and teach techniques to allow you to maintain as much independence as possible.
For more information on our treatment options and for further information about our PD specific exercise class, please see our website: www.physiofit.co.uk/classes or call 01625 590444 or email email@example.com and one of our physiotherapists would be happy to discuss your condition and what would be the most appropriate course of action.