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Exercise and Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s is usually a slow, progressive disorder that changes how our bodies move and operate.

It is the loss of dopamine production within the dopaminergic neurons of the substantia Nigra pars compacta within the brain. This deterioration causes motor skills to be challenged in clients such as tremors, reduction in upper body movement, loss of strength and confidence, rigid movements, balance, gait, and coordination.  Another aspect of PD is that client’s loss interest in physical activity since they cannot perform tasks very well. This lack of physical activity leads to decrease in strength and endurance.

A balanced exercise program is extremely helpful with clients who have Parkinson’s. It should include some aerobic training, flexibility, balance, and strength training. Nearly all types of exercise have the added benefit of improving brain function and can help promote a good night’s rest which those with PD can suffer from insomnia. Studies have also shown exercise helps protect against dementia associated with PD as well.

Resistance training improves strength.  Introducing exercises slowly and incrementally is important to a long-term commitment. I will begin with activities that afford the individual the feeling of safety and require the least effort with the greatest reward. In some individuals this may be upper body strength training, in others walking may be more suitable intensity. Aerobic training improves walking speed; low intensity or endurance training improves gait.

So common for clients to suffer with low confidence in their bodies ability to work for them, it is not unique to PD clients and can be overcome with adequate encouragement and confidence-building approaches.

I would be happy to help improve your quality of living with these basic exercise principles in a well-balanced training approach.  Please feel free to contact me to discuss your personized plan.