EXERCISE AS IMPORTANT AS MEDICINE
Participation in an exercise program should be an integral part of the management of Parkinson’s disease to optimize quality of life and day to day function.
There is mounting research these days demonstrating the positive effects of exercise on the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. In a recent study conducted by Beth Fisher et al., researchers at the University of Southern California found that exercise has a positive effect on the brain. On a day-to-day basis, people with PD who exercised moved more normally than those who did not. Based on these findings, they believe that exercise may be helping the brain to maintain old connections, form new ones and restore lost ones. They suggest that, in certain situations, the neuroplasticity created from exercise in patients with PD may actually outweigh the effects of neurodegeneration (www.parkinson.org).
Important components of an exercise program include the practice of strategies to improve daily activities such as moving in bed and rising from a chair, walking, strength and balance training, exercises to increase flexibility and joint motion, and cardiovascular training. Before you begin any exercise regimen, make sure to check with your doctor to ensure your safety.
First of all, you don’t need fancy equipment or facilities to start moving. Do what you can every day and know that some days might not be optimal. Choose things you enjoy doing and schedule exercise time when you are likely to stay committed to it.
Walking is an integral part of daily living. Terry Ellis, the director of the APDA’s National Rehabilitation Resource Center and other researchers have found that walking can be improved with the help of external cueing for those with a Parkinson’s diagnosis.
- Find music that has a beat that guides you to walk continuously and at a brisk but comfortable speed
- Choose music that motivates you
- You can use a metronome
- Gait training on treadmill improves stride length, ROM, and gait speed
- Could use a visual flash of light via LED attached to glasses or laser beams
- Could use natural environment cues such as lines in the sidewalk or tape on the floor if you have a tendency to freeze in a specific area
Exercise is always more fun with a buddy or group of friends. More and more group exercise programs are being developed with chronic disease or conditions in mind. Some programs are evidence-based for Parkinson’s disease like Delay the Disease or LSVT BIG, and others are geared more for general health restoration or prevention. Check your local YMCA, community center or parks and recreation department in your community to see what group exercise programs they have to offer.
Community Health Partners is teamed up with the YMCA of Greater Des Moines to bring a medical-based fitness environment specifically designed to provide ample opportunities for exercise and wellness programs for individuals at all levels of health. Specifically, this partnership provides physicians the chance to refer their patients suffering from a chronic disease or condition into medically-guided individualized exercise and wellness plans and group exercise programming. The YMCA has a strong population of people with Parkinson’s disease and other similar conditions participating in Delay the Disease, Cycling to Restore Health, Aquatic to Restore Health, and Tai Chi for Fall Prevention.
Delay the Disease is an evidence-based exercise program for people with Parkinson’s disease and other similar conditions working on all elements of fitness. The exercise component focuses on improving functional movement like getting on and off the floor, walking, and balance training. This is a group exercise class format that provides a lot of fun along with the hard work. We have 2 instructors teach the class and usually have physical therapy students available to help those that may need extra assistance. The class is offered Tuesday and Thursday 2:15pm-3:15pm at the Walnut Creek YMCA.
Cycling to Restore Health is modeled after an evidence-based exercise program where participants ride stationary bikes that are fitted to their specifications. This class is a little more vigorous in intensity and would be great for those who have an active lifestyle or early to mid diagnosis of their disease-condition. At the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Alberts found that when people with Parkinson’s pedaled on a stationary bike 30% faster than their preferred “voluntary” rate (or forced exertion), they not only gained in aerobic fitness, but also showed improvement in motor function and coordination as well as manual dexterity. This improvement was retained some weeks after the exercise stopped (www.parkinson.org). The class is offered on Wednesday 1:15pm-2:00pm at the Walnut Creek YMCA.
Aquatic to Restore Health is a group water exercise program that can help lessen your symptoms of disease or injury. The program is designed to improve your balance, flexibility, strength, and walking ability through the water’s buoyant environment. Water allows you the freedom to move with more ease and less pain. Look for new classes starting soon!
Tai Chi for Fall Prevention has been proven to reduce the risk of falls for those over 65 years and for individuals with a chronic disease or condition. The goals of Tai Chi are to improve balance and coordination, promote deep breathing and relaxation, increase flexibility, reduce stress, and decrease pain. Research has also shown Tai Chi to be better than a support group for overall improvements in well being. Classes are offered on Monday 1:15pm-2:15pm at the Walnut Creek YMCA for those who may need extra assistance.
Whether you partake in group exercise or do it from the comforts of home, remember that it is important to move throughout the day. Make exercise part of your lifestyle and allow it to nurture your body, not punish it.
For more information about the programs within the YMCA of Greater Des Moines, you can call Mary LaBarre, Aquatic and Community Programs Director, Community Health Partners at 515-512-9241. Referrals from physicians can be faxed to 515-512-9186 to get your patients participating in the above programs along with individualized exercise and wellness plans.