Section: Articles by Clinicians

Exercise Your Power to Overcome Parkinson’s

03/09/2021
Exercise Your Power to Overcome Parkinson’s

It is not difficult to imagine what Parkinson’s disease (PD) looks like. You might envision the stooped posture and unbalanced, shuffling steps of a neighbor with PD. You might hear the quiet, hoarse voice of your father. You might recall how your right-hand tremor prevents you from signing your name legibly.

PD is a neurodegenerative disease that affects more than 60,000 new individuals annually in the United States. Often, the motor signs that we see—such as those listed above—overshadow the lesser known but equally impactful non-motor effects we cannot see: loss of smell, low blood pressure, pain, constipation, sleep disturbances, and depression. In some cases, these signs can precede diagnosis by years. For this reason, meeting with a physician who has experience treating PD is essential to early treatment and better patient outcomes.

Although there is not yet a cure for PD, research continues to support the benefits of exercise in treating it. Just as exercise has been proven to maintain health and prevent disease, researchers and clinicians are learning more about the impact of exercise on the brain’s structure and function. Exercise leading to brain change has resulted in improvements in both motor and non-motor symptoms caused by PD.

Research supports high-intensity exercise such as boxing, cycling, and treadmill training for the treatment of PD. Studies have also shown improvements in balance and coordination with exercises like tai-chi and dance. A physical therapist can help you create an individualized program to address specific exercise and mobility needs.

Those living with PD may also benefit from the peer support and motivational nature of group exercise. Depending on the resources available in your area, group exercise for PD can feature boxing, dance, and large-amplitude movement training. Pairing vigorous exercise with optimal medication and symptom management may be the key to managing and overcoming the effects of PD.

It is important to build a team of knowledgeable and supportive individuals to help maintain your autonomy and dignity as you navigate the landscape of PD. Such a support system may include a physician, physical therapist, speech therapist, occupational therapist, nutritionist, counselor, spouse, or caregiver, as well as peer support groups.

By finding the right support and committing to a physically active lifestyle, you can rise above your PD diagnosis. You have the power to control it.

If you’re interested in learning more about group wellness and exercise classes for individuals with PD, contact Casa Colina Hospital and Centers for Healthcare at 909/596-7733, ext. 3500.