Exercise and Parkinson’s Disease – Is Exercise necessary?

Longevity Exercise Physiology Drummoyne,EdgecliffMarrickville,Bella Vista, Randwick, Lindfield and Balmain look at the benefits of exercise in the treatment and management of Parkinson’s Disease.

Ever wondered why exercise for people with chronic illnesses is such a big deal? Its not just a big deal.. it’s a necessity, especially for those with Parkinson’s Disease.

After a year of studying exercise physiology at UNSW, my studies became extremely more relevant when my Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The idea of my Dad having a “disease” really frightened me, and only being in the early stages of my course meant that I really didn’t know much about the condition.

After a few weeks of feeling quite down about my Dad’s diagnosis, I thought, “enough is enough. How can I help him? Helping people with this condition is literally what I’m about to learn for the next 3 years”. That’s when I became particularly interested in different neurological conditions, their unique symptoms and ways Exercises Physiologists can use exercise to improve their symptoms and most important change how they live their lives for the better. My favourite subject was soon “Rehab for Neuromuscular conditions” and I would go home and site my textbooks to my Dad to try and educate him about exercise and his new diagnosis.

Although Dad’s neurologist encouraged him to exercise, I felt as though the true benefits that exercise can bring to people with Parkinson’s were not stressed. So, I’m writing this blog post to STRESS those benefits and raise awareness of the importance of exercise for Parkinson’s disease.

Do you know someone with Parkinson’s Disease? Do they prioritise exercise and are they participating in exercise modalities proven to benefit the condition?

Parkinson’s is Australia’s second most common neurological disorder behind dementia with 100,000 people living with the disease. Parkinson’s is both progressive and degenerative condition, which affects the control of movement due to a lack of dopamine produced by the brain.

Common symptoms include

– Tremor or shake

– Muscle rigidity

– Slow movements

– Balance and gait issues

– Cognitive impairment

– Sleeping difficulties

– Depression and anxiety

All symptoms impact the individual and their families lives and often lead to an inability to perform activities of daily living, decreasing their quality of life through a loss of independence.

The biggest risk factor for Parkinson’s is age, and due to the current spike in the aging population, the number of people with the condition has increased by 17% over the past few years. As a result there has been a 48% increase to the cost on the healthcare system.

So what can those with Parkinson’s disease do to slow the progression of their condition? In this case, exercise really is the best medicine.

The Parkinson’s Outcomes Project is the largest clinical study of the disease in the world, which highlights the effectiveness of Parkinson’s therapies. Their research indicates that those who started exercise earlier and who exercised a minimum of 2.5 hours per week saw slower progression of their symptoms.

Flexibility, aerobic and resistance exercise should be included in exercise programs to improve mobility, strength and balance, which is lost as a result of Parkinson’s. Not only does exercise improve physical function, it has the ability to improve cognitive symptoms as well by completing dual tasks and rewiring the brain through neuroplasticity. So, for those with Parkinson’s, exercise isn’t all just stretching, running and weights. Research has shown that neuroprotective exercise such as tai chi, ballroom dancing and specific PD warrior exercises are also beneficial for cognitive function.

A common cognitive symptom associated with the condition is depression and anxiety. Everyone knows that as a result of exercise, endorphins are produced which increases an individual’s mood. For those with Parkinson’s this is significantly important as research suggests that certain anti-depressive medication have the potential to exacerbate their motor symptoms, which in turn can often produce more anxiety and stress.

How can exercise rewire the brain?

Extensive research has been done on the brains of mice that exercised regularly on a treadmill. Research revealed that although exercise did not change the amount of dopamine produced by the brain, it made the brain use its dopamine more efficiently. Other studies investigated that exercise may stop the accumulation of alpha-synuclein, a neuronal protein in that brain that are thought to play a part in the brain cell necrosis associated with Parkinson’s Disease.

The current evidence suggests that exercise really is a protective factor for PD as it slows down the progressive decline of both physical and cognitive symptoms. If you know anyone who has PD, encourage them to read this blog and consult with a Longevity Exercise Physiologist to improve their quality of life!

1300 964 002

Written By Shannon Coolican

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