What Is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a chronic and progressive neurological disease affecting human movement. Parkinson’s affects neurons primarily in the substantia nigra. These cells produce dopamine that is largely responsible for relaying information to various parts of the brain about movement.
- resting tremor or “Pill-rolling tremor”
- bradykinesia (slowness of movement)
- rigidity (lack of movement primarily in the trunk)
- poor balance
- loss of sense of smell
- decreased volume of voice
- sleep disorders
- mood disorders
- orthostatric hypotension (unusual drop in blood pressure when going from sitting to standing)
Why Is Exercise Beneficial?
Exercise is beneficial for everyone. Exercise can increase strength, flexibility, endurance, mood, and so much more. Specifically for people with PD, exercise is a crucial part of staying healthy. Exercise has been shown to decrease falls and increase independence in people with PD. The National Parkinson’s Foundation looked specifically at how exercise effected long-term outcomes:
“NPF is studying exercise in the Quality Improvement Initiative. Every center agrees that they believe exercise is important to good outcomes in PD, and the data supports that. Doing exercise is associated with a better sense of well-being, even across stages and severity of the disease.” (Link to Article)
Possibly slowing disease progression.
Exercise has been shown to be neuroprotective of the brain. Although exercise will not stop or reverse the disease, it can decrease the symptoms associated with it improving independence and quality of life. The National Parkinson’s Foundation looked specifically at limiting complications associated with the disease:
“There is a strong consensus among physicians and physical therapists that improved mobility decreases the risk of falls and some other complications of Parkinson’s. They agree that practicing movement—physical therapy, occupational therapy, leisure activities, visiting the gym, and participating in an exercise program—improves mobility and stability. By avoiding complications, you can avoid some of the things that can make PD worse. Beyond this, we know that people who exercise intensely, for example by doing things like running or riding a bicycle, have fewer changes in their brains caused by aging.” (Link to article)
How Can I Benefit From Exercise?
The old way of thought was to “not stress and overexert too much.” That thought has been disproven emphatically now. Any movement and exercise of any kind is better than nothing. But, the higher intensity you can handle, the better. We strongly encourage our patients to perform daily high intensity exercise. The harder you work out, the more benefits researchers have seen for the brain. We also highly recommend that a lot of variability is added to the program. Your body gets very good at repeating the same activity and the challenge becomes less and less, so change it up! That is one of the many reasons we like boxing as an intervention so much. There so many different drills and exercises to do that you could never get bored.
Remember that “high intensity” is different for everyone and is based on what you have done in the past. If you have never exercised before in your life, your high intensity will be very different from someone who ran ultra-marathons for fun. The bottom line is that your heart rate and breathing rate should be increased for about an hour. You should be really tired after your workout. Make sure you are challenging yourself daily.
Stay tuned for the next part of the series! Feel free to share with your friends!