Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. It affects a person’s control of their body movements with symptoms including tremors, slow movements and muscle stiffness and rigidity. The incidence increases with age with one in 100 people over the ago of 60 having the disease.
Exercise is an important part of leading a healthy lifestyle for everyone and may be even more important in people with Parkinson’s Disease. This is not only because it can lead to improvements in symptoms and enable sufferers to continue be able to maintain their independence, but also because it has little side effects and has many other benefits including improving heart health, weight management and bone health.
What exercises should you do if you have Parkinson’s ?
It is important to do a range of different exercises including aerobic, balance, strengthening, postural and flexibility exercises.
Aerobic exercises including walking and cycling are great for maintaining and improving cardiovascular fitness. Walking is beneficial to practice gait which is often altered to small steps and shuffling due to Parkinson’s. If you experience freezing or your balance and walking speed make it difficult to walk safely and at a moderate intensity, cycling on a stationary cycle may be a better option. Stationary cycling is beneficial for muscle control, function and reducing muscle rigidity and on a stationary bike there is also a significantly decreased risk of falls.
Slowed movements and a shuffling walking pattern are common symptoms experienced by those with Parkinson’s. Research shows that the gait of someone with the disease can be improved with greater muscle strength in the legs, as increased leg strength can lead to improved stride length and speed. For this reason resistance training exercises are essential for better movement. Upper body exercises including postural strengthening are also very important as they help with maintaining good posture, minimising falls risk and improving functional capacity.
Postural and movement changes experienced with Parkinson’s mean that you may have reduced balance leading to a greater risk of falling. The great news is that exercise programs have been shown to lead to a reduction in falls risk.
Stretching exercises can aid in reducing muscle tightness and improve flexibility and range of motion around joints whilst decreasing the risk of injury. These type of exercises can also make it easier to adopt a better posture as tight muscles are a factor leading to bad posture and mobility.
What does this mean?
Parkinson’s disease does not mean stop being active! Exercising is extremely important in allowing you to continue to be independent and completing activities that you enjoy. It is best that an exercise professional is consulted before beginning a program to ensure safety and effectiveness of the exercises.