Get Moving

Exercise and Parkinson’s Disease

Did you know that regular exercise can reduce the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s Disease?  We all know that exercise is good for the body and that it is considered a part of living a healthy life.  Exercise improves mobility, can prolong longevity, reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, improve sleep, digestion, and even reduce the symptoms of depression.  But did you know that exercise can help manage your PD and possibly even slow the progression of the disease?

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, in addition to helping PD patients with the movement issues that result from the disease, exercise may actually slow the progression of PD.  The benefits of exercise include improved strength and motor coordination which has the added benefit of decreasing falls and improving balance, but intense exercise is necessary to minimize the changes in the brain associated with PD. Intense exercise allows the brain to utilize dopamine more efficiently.

Intense exercise is activity that raises the heart rate such as speed walking, cycling, swimming, or aerobics classes. So what does this mean for the PD patient?  First, PD patients should work with their health care provider to determine if it is safe to exercise and at what activity level.  Then set up a consistent exercise program that, based on ability, includes an hour a day, four times a week.   It is especially important for PD patients to warm up and cool down carefully due to the muscle rigidity that often accompanies the disease.  Any type of exercise is beneficial but PD patients can achieve increased mobility from exercises such as walking, cycling, Yoga, and Tai chi.  If you don’t like to exercise alone, consider a group class or program designed specifically for PD patients or find a workout partner to help keep you motivated.  Just remember, check with your doctor, stick with it, and Get Moving.

The Harvard School of Public Health: Health Literacy Studies Web Site. Available at: http:www.hsph.harvard.edu/healthliteracy. Accessed ‘May 23, 2014.’