Exercise and Parkinson’s Disease

This week, Laura Organ, Moving Well Manager at Arvida Good Friends Living Well Centre, sheds some light on how exercise can help those living with Parkinson’s Disease.

Exercise is important when living with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) to help improve or maintain balance, mobility, and the ability to perform daily tasks. The most recent research indicates that people with PD who exercise for 2.5 hours per week experience a slower decline in quality of life. A combination of regular exercise including mobility, strength, balance, and coordination are most effective.  

Boxing has been proven to manage the progression of PD and is growing more popular amongst people with neurological conditions. Using boxing to alleviate PD symptoms is growing in popularity all over the world and, although more research is currently being conducted, the preliminary studies are promising. Here’s the science part! Exercise can help slow the progression of PD by causing neurological changes in your brain. Studies have found that exercise may help protect your brain by increasing the body’s production of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). The reason boxing is particularly helpful is due to the intensity of the activity and the fact that it uses our larger muscle groups coupled with big movements. Boxing works many aspects of fitness that can decline with both age including balance, coordination, muscle power and mobility.

More specifically for people with PD, exercise can help reduce tremor, bradykinesia and improve muscular speed and power. Training the brain with new movements helps to set up new neural pathways, known as neuroplasticity. This is particularly important for anyone living with neurological conditions from PD to stroke. Any activity or exercise where you must think about the movements and perform them is most beneficial, which is why boxing draws so many benefits. It’s as much brain gym as it is body gym! As well as the physical benefits of exercise, there are also mental and social benefits to be had. Exercising in a group of people has been proven to improve mood and wellbeing.

There are activities that have been proven to help slow the progression of Parkinson’s, but any movement is better than no movement. So, no matter your fitness level, the general message is get moving and get moving often. A lot of people ask: ‘how hard should I be working? I don’t want to overdo it!’ When exercising, using a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) can be helpful. On a scale on 0 to 10 (0 being at rest and 10 being maximal effort), aim to be working at a rate of 5-7. A good gauge of this is if you can easily have a conversation whilst exercising, you should probably increase the intensity.

Photo credit: Arisa Chattasa on Unsplash

About Laura Organ

Moving Well Manager, Arvida Group

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