Benefits of Exercise for Parkinson’s Disease
When one has Parkinson’s disease (PD), exercise is as important as taking medications on time, every time. Exercise helps to maintain strength, flexibility, balance, and cognitive acuity so that one can continue to do the things one has to do and the things one loves to do.
What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that leads to shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with walking, balance, and coordination.
Parkinson’s symptoms usually begin gradually and get worse over time. As the disease progresses, people may have difficulty walking and talking. They may also have mental and behavioral changes, sleep problems, depression, memory difficulties, and fatigue.
Both men and women can have Parkinson’s disease. However, the disease affects about 50 percent more men than women.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease
To understand the role fitness plays in treating Parkinson’s disease, we first need to understand the symptoms of the disease. Parkinson’s disease has four main symptoms:
- Tremor (trembling) in hands, arms, legs, jaw, or head
- Stiffness of the limbs and trunk
- Slowness of movement
- Impaired balance and coordination, sometimes leading to falls
Other symptoms may include depression and other emotional changes; difficulty swallowing, chewing, and speaking; urinary problems or constipation; skin problems; and sleep disruptions.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s and the rate of progression differ among individuals. Sometimes people dismiss early symptoms of Parkinson’s as the effects of normal aging.
What Causes Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease occurs when nerve cells in the basal ganglia, an area of the brain that controls movement, become impaired and/or die. Normally, these nerve cells, or neurons, produce an important brain chemical known as dopamine. When the neurons die or become impaired, they produce less dopamine, which causes the movement problems of Parkinson’s. Scientists still do not know what causes cells that produce dopamine to die.
People with Parkinson’s also lose the nerve endings that produce norepinephrine, the main chemical messenger of the sympathetic nervous system, which controls many functions of the body, such as heart rate and blood pressure. The loss of norepinephrine might help explain some of the non-movement features of Parkinson’s, such as fatigue, irregular blood pressure, decreased movement of food through the digestive tract, and sudden drop in blood pressure when a person stands up from a sitting or lying-down position.
Why is Exercise Important?
Movement, slowness, and stiffness can be difficult when one lives with Parkinson’s disease (PD). Slowness in particular can make one feel weak and is very unsatisfying. Adding regular exercise improves overall mobility and quality of life.
Exercise programs help one stay active and support daily living activities. Be sure to define your goals before you begin a program. It is important for patients to conduct their exercises during an ‘on’ period when possible.
How does exercise benefit thinking and memory?
The brain can form and reorganize connections. It’s known as neuroplasticity. There is evidence that exercise may improve neuroplasticity. Exercise can help improve attention, thinking and memory. Physical activities benefits brain areas related to learning. This effect is more obvious in early disease phases. To increase exercise’s benefit, include:
- Physical or spoken feedback
- Attention tasks, such as walking and doing a memory test at the same time
- Motivational rewards
What motor symptoms of PD can be improved with exercise?
PD patients often complain about difficulties with walking, mobility, posture, and balance as PD advances. These symptoms may improve with exercise. The risk of falls may also decrease.
Does exercise have additional benefits?
Exercise improves movement, thinking and memory function. One also finds exercise having a positive impact on physical appearance, mood, and social interactions. One experiences:
- Better arm and leg strength
- Core muscle strength
- More muscle flexibility
While medication has long been the most promising treatment available for Parkinson’s disease, a regular exercise program should always be a part of managing Parkinson’s disease. In fact, most movement disorder neurologists say that exercise is as important as any one of your medications. Though exercise is not a cure, it definitely helps slowing down the progression of symptoms.
Please contact me to learn what I and my team AbhiFit in Dubai can do for you and your family members and anyone who you know who might be at risk of Parkinson’s or suffering from it.
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- Parkinson’s Disease https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/parkinsons-disease
- The Benefits of Exercise for PD https://med.stanford.edu/parkinsons/treating-PD/exercise.html
- Exercise for Parkinson’s Disease: Essential Facts for Patients https://www.movementdisorders.org/MDS-Files1/Education/Patient-Education
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Abhinav Malhotra is an award-winning personal trainer, coach and sports nutritionist in Dubai, UAE. He also offers online services to clients around the world. A personal trainer par excellence, Abhi has worked with the world’s leading fitness chains, supplement brands and founded his own fitness academy in India. He has achieved successes for many clients from all backgrounds and has trained the Indian Army Rugby Team. He is the first International Kettlebell Sport athlete from India.