By: Dr. Beth Templin
April is Parkinson's awareness month and this is the perfect opportunity to highlight why exercise is so vital to those living with Parkinson's Disease (PD). The relationship between PD and exercise has been well researched. What's been found is that not all exercises are created equal.
In a previous article, we discussed the importance of having certain key principles incorporated into your exercise routine. They were high effort, complex movements, whole body activities that work on upright posture and big movements. So why are those recommended?
People with Parkinson's have to overcome certain movement faults. One of the most common is rigidity. When someone experiences rigidity, they have extreme stiffness in one or more areas of their body. This makes it difficult for them to achieve fluid, natural looking movements. Their movements will appear disjointed and require increased effort to perform. People who are experiencing rigidity can benefit from activities that focus on slow and rhythmic movements. This will break up that rigidity and allow for more normal looking movement.
Another common symptom affecting people living with Parkinson's is bradykinesia, or slowness of movement. This can impact trying to start a movement as well as carry out a movement. This symptom can be addressed by performing big and fast movements with a high amount of effort.
People with Parkinson's often experience lack of coordination with their movements. This can result in poor balance, falls and difficulty carrying out daily tasks. Participating in exercises that mimic everyday movements and encourage continuous flow of motion will help improve your overall confidence in your daily life.
Another area that suffers with Parkinson's disease is the automaticity of certain tasks. This means it takes someone with Parkinson's more concentration to perform simple tasks that the rest of us do on "autopilot". Instead of just standing up and walking across the room, a person with Parkinson's may have to break down the task into 3 or 4 steps to accomplish it successfully.
Exercises specifically designed to target these problem areas have been very successful in helping people with PD improve their symptoms. Just as all exercises for PD are not created equal, you truly need to choose a therapist that specializes in PD. At HouseFit, we are trained to work with people with PD and have a variety of services to help you no matter where you are on your journey.
It's common that people have symptoms for several years before getting an actual diagnosis. So even if you are newly diagnosed, you've probably been experiencing some of these symptoms for several months to years. That's why it's never too early or too late to start exercising.
Dr. Beth helps adults 55+ maximize their independence and fitness, so they can continue to enjoy a full and active life.