Slowing the progression of Parkinson’s with exercise

Parkinson’s disease affects those afflicted with it by causing impaired balance, tremors, slowness, stiffness, and a shuffling gait or trouble with walking.  Now a new study is suggesting that exercise could be one way to help slow down the progression of this disease including for those who already have advanced Parkinson’s.

The debilitating disease of Parkinson’s affects up to one million people living in the United States and over 10 million people worldwide.  Each year in the U.S., doctors diagnose as many as 60,000 new cases with the average age of onset of 60 years of age.  Parkinson’s disease also strikes 50 percent more men than women.

A recent online publication in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, conducted research of more than 3,400 people with Parkinson’s in North America, the Netherlands and Israel for more than two years.  To assess the changes in mobility of someone with Parkinson’s, each person was timed on how long it took for them to rise from a chair, walk about 10 feet, turn and then return to the chair in a sitting position.

Results from the study showed that people with Parkinson’s disease who exercised regularly for 150 minutes weekly had a smaller decline in quality of life and mobility over two years compared to people who either did not exercise at all or exercised less.

The type of exercise was not looked at as for what specific kind would be most beneficial for those with the disease.  It appears that any type of form of exercise of at least 150 minutes offers benefits.  To help people with Parkinson’s feel more empowered over their condition, it was suggested that whatever type of exercise they wanted to do was fine as long as the meet the required weekly minutes to achieve results.

Surprisingly, the people who had the greatest benefits from exercising were those with more advanced Parkinson’s disease.  Just 30 minutes of weekly exercise showed benefits for them.  This is an important finding as people with more advanced Parkinson’s disease may feel like they are unable to gain any benefits from exercising resulting in them not bothering to do so.  This suggests that exercise should be made more accessible to these people to help lessen the declines in the quality of life and to improve mobility with this progressive disease. 

Types of exercise suggested for Parkinson’s disease

Just because a person has been given a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease does not mean they cannot do some basic exercise.  In fact, exercising is highly advisable for those with this condition so as to keep oneself in relatively good shape and to boost stamina. 

To help manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s, the exercise program should include a few key ingredients:

·Flexibility or stretching

·Aerobic activity

·Resistance training or weightlifting

These elements are included in many types of exercise such as biking, running, tai chi, yoga, Pilates, dance, weight training, noncontact boxing, walking and more all have been shown to have positive effects on symptoms for people with Parkinson’s.  The important thing is to do some form of movement regularly and to find an enjoyable exercise to motivate maintaining physical activity.