Exercise Can Improve Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

Today is World Parkinson’s Day which is celebrated once a year to raise awareness and help to change people’s attitudes about the condition. What better time is there to talk about this important topic than today?

In this article, we will be discussing what Parkinson’s disease is, what the early signs of the condition are, how exercise can improve symptoms and the types of exercise that are shown to be beneficial for someone with Parkinson’s Disease.


What Is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a disorder which affects the nervous system and impairs movement, affecting around 1% of people over 60 but it can occur in people as young as 40 or less.

It mainly affects dopamine-producing neurons in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra. It is a progressive disease where symptoms often begin slowly, sometimes being barely noticeable. Tremors, slowing of movement, balance problems and stiffness of the limbs and body are all symptoms commonly associated with the condition.

The progression of symptoms varies between individuals due to the diversity of the disease. The cause of Parkinson’s disease is still very much unknown and the prognosis of living with the condition is usually around ten years, but this varies between individuals.


What Are the Early Signs of Parkinson’s Disease?

Sometimes the early signs of Parkinson’s disease are so slight that they can easily go undetected, but here are ten early signs to look out for. Consider visiting your doctor if you have two or more of the following symptoms:

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  • Tremor – Noticeable shaking in your fingers, thumbs, hands or chin while at rest.
  • Reduced sense of smell – Particularly with foods such as dill pickles, licorice or bananas.
  • Difficulty sleeping – Due to sudden movements during sleep.
  • Significant changes in handwriting – Much smaller or crowded words.
  • Change in posture – leaning, stooping or slouching when standing.
  • Constipation – Regularly straining to have a bowel movement.
  • Voice changes – Becomes unusually soft or low.
  • Dizziness or fainting – Happening regularly when standing up.
  • Facial masking – Looking sad, depressed, serious or angry when not in a bad mood.
  • Difficulties with movement – Limb or body stiffness, remaining with movement, and hip pain.

It is important to note that all of the above signs and symptoms can also be attributed to other, often minor issues, so it is important to seek the advice of a medical professional before worrying too much about the possible cause.


Exercise Improves Parkinson’s Symptoms

At present, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease but there are treatment options available to help manage the symptoms. These include medications, surgery, and exercise.

A critical narrative review of a range of studies and case reviews, undertaken in 2018 shows that different types of regular physical activity can reduce the risk of falls, improve motor skills, balance, and gait for Parkinson’s disease sufferers; thus improving their quality of life.

We all know about the benefits of exercise for our health but for people living with Parkinson’s disease, exercise treats Parkinson’s symptoms. Regular physical activity is a vitally important aspect of helping to manage and improve symptoms which impact mobility, balance, and the activities of daily living.

Research shows that people with Parkinson’s disease who begin exercising at least 2.5 hours a week early on in the disease when symptoms are less severe, experience a slower decline in their quality of life compared to those who begin later. It is therefore of the utmost importance for overall management of the condition to implement regular exercise regimes early on.


Types of Exercise Suitable for Parkinson’s Disease

So, what are the most beneficial exercises to incorporate into your daily living? Well, this can vary for everyone, depending on the severity of the disease and your general health. But according to the Parkinson’s Disease Clinic and Research Centre, activities should incorporate stretching, strength, balance, rhythmical, cardiovascular and changing directions through unplanned movement exercises.

Some examples of these would be:

Planned and repeated movement exercises

  • Cycling on a static bike
  • Swimming using the same stroke
  • Gentle weight lifting
  • Walking slowly on a treadmill

These are all exercises aimed at improving your balance through repeated movements. If possible, it can also be useful to incorporate exercises for your mind at the same time, such as singing, watching a quiz show or throwing and catching a ball.

Unplanned and random movement exercises

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  • Cycling
  • Aerobics
  • Swimming in varied strokes
  • Walking, hiking or jogging
  • Marching while swinging your arms
  • Any style of dancing
  • Yoga, Pilates or Tai Chi
  • Badminton, squash, tennis or table tennis

These are all exercises aimed at challenging you both mentally and physically. Exercising daily benefits not only Parkinson’s patients, but is a great choice for everyone, no matter your age or health condition. You can choose activities which are at a higher or lower intensity, depending on your overall fitness level and severity of symptoms.


Treat Parkinson’s Symptoms With An Exercise Physiologist

Thus, we have discussed that Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological condition, primarily affecting movement which commonly presents with symptoms such as balance problems, slow movement, tremors and stiffness of the limbs and body; although there is a wide range of early symptoms which could be a sign of the disease.

The huge benefits of exercise as part of the treatment for Parkinson’s disease has been discussed, including a variety of exercise activities which incorporate stretching, balance, strength, rhythmical, cardiovascular and changing direction through unplanned movement exercises.

Furthermore, the benefits of seeking the help of an exercise physiologist have been discussed with the aim to achieving a better quality of life, increased confidence and ability to socialise more, by developing a customised exercise treatment plan to help manage and reduce the severity of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Do you or someone you know with Parkinson’s disease need some help and support to manage and improve your symptoms through exercise?

Maybe you should consider seeing an exercise physiologist. An exercise physiologist works closely with you to develop a customised exercise treatment plan, tailored to your needs and current fitness level.

Seeking the help of an exercise physiologist is proven to be hugely beneficial in improving quality of life, through treatment and therapy aimed at managing and reducing the severity of symptoms, thus resulting in greater independence, increased confidence and a more active, social lifestyle. Please visit Live Well Rehab for further information or to book an appointment with an exercise physiologist.

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