Learn the benefits of exercise for optimal management of Parkinson’s disease

Did you know that exercising with Parkinson’s disease can help to improve your mental and physical wellbeing, as well as your balance, strength and coordination?

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological condition that affects movement, muscle function and balance.  Studies clearly show that people who exercise with Parkinson’s fare far better in the long run than those who don’t.

Regular (key word!) exercise offers a multitude of benefits for individuals with Parkinson’s disease.  These include:

Benefits of Exercise for Parkinson’s disease

  • Boost walking performance- resistance exercise increases walking speed, helps initiate movement and improves step length and stride.
  • Enhanced balance- exercise improves balance by building lower body strength, proprioception and coordination.
  • Supercharge your endurance- regular exercise helps to prevent fatigue and lethargy related to Parkinson’s disease
  • Improved quality of life- exercise helps to maintain strength, flexibility, balance and cognitive acuity so that you can continue to do the things you have to do, and the things you love to do.
  • Mood Enhancer- Many people with PD also experience depression. Exercise is a potent moderator of mood and has been consistently shown to alleviate symptoms of depression.
  • Sleep like a baby- exercise has been shown to be a powerful moderator of sleep quality. A fresher way to wake up and start your day!
  • Optimal health and wellbeing- A consistent exercise routine serves as a powerful resource for enhancing your health and overall well-being.

There is a growing prevalence of Parkinson’s disease in Australia that underscores the need for increased awareness and comprehensive strategies to address the challenges faced by individuals affected by the condition.

Parkinson’s Disease Stats:

  • PD is the second most common neurological disease in Australia after dementia
  • 38 Aussies are diagnosed with PD every day
  • 20% of sufferers are under 50 years old and 10% are diagnosed before the age of 40
  • Parkinson’s disease affects an estimated 10-million people worldwide- 200,000 in Australia
  • The number of people with Parkinson’s has increased by 17% in the last 6 years

What Type of Exercise Should I do?

For those who are managing Parkinson’s disease, knowing where to start, how much, and what type of exercise can be overwhelming.  A comprehensive exercise program for optimal management will include resistance, cardiovascular, balance and flexibility exercises.

WHAT IS RESISTANCE EXERCISE? Any movement performed against resistance.

HOW DOES IT HELP? Aims to improve muscle tone, strength and power

COMMON TYPES OF RESISTENCE ACTIVITY – Resistance bands, machines, free weights and Pilates

WHAT IS AEROBIC EXERCISE? Sustained exercise that elevates heart rate and breathing

HOW DOES IT HELP? Cardiovascular fitness will help improve heart and lung function
Walking, Cycling, Swimming, Running

WHAT IS BALANCE? Movement that challenges your ability to stabilise your body’s position

HOW DOES IT HELP? Reduce falls risk and increase stability
Standing on one leg, changes in center of gravity, multidirectional movements

WHAT IS FLEXIBILITY? Lengthening your muscles and moving your joints to an end range of motion

HOW DOES IT HELP? Reduce muscle stiffness and increase range of motion
Stretching that is sustained or dynamic while focusing on breathing

WHAT IS GAIT SPECIFIC EXERCISE? Movement that emphasizes similar motions that occur while walking

HOW DOES IT HELP?  Improvements of walking speed, walking performance and reduced shuffling.

COMMON TYPES OF GAIT SPECIFIC EXERCISE – strengthening exercises that target and mimic important muscle groups for walking such as calf raises

Now that you understand the different types of exercises and what is best for Parkinson’s Disease, you might be wondering ‘where do I start?’.  It can be overwhelming task absorbing new information, so here are my top 5 tips to get you on the right path. Good luck!

Helpful Exercise Tips:

  • Start with manageable amount of exercise and build as tolerated– introduce sustainable lifestyle changes
  • Be consistent – make sure you are showing up regularly in order to see the best benefits.
  • Know your limits – everyone is different, and symptoms will vary from person to person.
  • Be safe – always see a health professional before exercising, like an Exercise Physiologist.
  • Be kind to yourself – trying YOUR best is enough.

How Do I Get Started?

Safety is vital to start your exercise journey. Make an appointment with a health professional, such as an Exercise Physiologist, who will be able to assess your level of function, consider your symptoms, implement strategies to reach yours goals and have a personalised exercise intervention.

Call to action:

Neurological conditions can impact everyone differently and symptoms vary between individuals.

It’s never too late to start reaping the benefits of an exercise program.  If you’re looking for personalized guidance and a tailored exercise program, consider consulting an Exercise Physiologist. They are experts in prescribing exercise for various health conditions, including Parkinson’s Disease.

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