In a research study published in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, researchers from Northwestern University determined that that people who exercised regularly had significantly slower declines in HRQL (health related quality of life) and mobility over a two-year period.
While this is not particularly groundbreaking information, the study is significant in that it did look at a larger group of patients (3400) over a longer period of time (2 years).
The most important finding from this study is that while exercise benefits everyone with Parkinson’s Disease, the health benefit of exercise is even more significant for people in more advanced stages of Parkinson’s Disease. This should be a call to action for making exercise and physical activity more accessible to Parkinson’s patients with more severe disability.
I’m a relative newbie to PD, having been diagnosed 2-1/2 years ago. Since that time, I’ve had the pleasure to meet individuals who have lived with Parkinson’s for 10 to 20 years, and more. The common theme for living well with PD is regular exercise. The sooner that you learn to love to exercise, or at least find an exercise program that you enjoy, the better off you will be.
You need to think of exercise as your most important prescription, something that you need to make time for almost every day. Exercise is more important than any medication. (But medication is often necessary or helpful to maximize your ability to exercise.)
At the recent World Parkinson Congress 2016, the main theme that I noticed is that exercise is the best medicine for PD. It may not be as effective at treating PD symptoms as l-dopa, but all the research and anecdotal evidence clearly shows that collectively, those who exercise regularly enjoy a far better quality of life with PD, for a longer period of time, as compared to those who do not. While medical research continues to be important, the best thing that can be done for the growing number of People with Parkinson’s (PwP) today is to encourage exercise.
There is a growing consensus that more exercise is better, and there is concern that many PwP are being given outdated or incomplete exercise recommendations.
For the past 5 months, I’ve been participating in a Kickboxing for Parkinson’s Disease class at Rip Tide MMA in Bluffton/Hilton Head, South Carolina (now a Rock Steady Boxing affiliate). It has pushed me to exercise harder, helped me get stronger, and improved my hand/eye coordination (or as we call it the mind muscle connection). To put it simply, this is the best thing that I’ve done for myself all year.
I made this video to help others understand what these classes are about. If you have Parkinson’s, then you owe it to yourself to find a class like this. Visit http://rocksteadyboxing.org today. As the song in this video says, “Never look back and say, could have been me.”
The song in the video is “Could Have Been Me” by The Struts. It wasn’t written about fighting PD, but it is a perfect anthem for this fight.
Don’t wanna live as an untold story.
Rather go out in a blaze of glory.
I can’t hear you, I don’t fear you!
I wanna taste love and pain,
Wanna feel pride and shame.
I don’t wanna take my time,
Don’t wanna waste one line.
I wanna live better days,
Never look back and say,
Could have been me
While there are great anecdotal reports and TV stories about boxing programs for Parkinson’s Disease,particularly Rock Steady Boxing, I thought it would be interesting to learn whether or not these results have been quantitatively measured. Stephanie Combs-Miller, a professor at the University of Indianapolis Krannert School of Physical Therapy and director of research for the University’s College of Health Sciences, has been studying the effectiveness of boxing programs for Parkinson’s Disease for 9 years.
In 2011, her team published a study in the Journal of the American Physical Therapy Association titled “Boxing Training for Patients With Parkinson Disease: A Case Series” (available on-line at http://ptjournal.apta.org/content/91/1/132). It was a very limited study with six patients with idiopathic PD attending 24 to 36 boxing training sessions for 12 weeks, with the option of continuing the training for an additional 24 weeks. Very specific motor tests were assessed at regular intervals:
The outcome measures were the Functional Reach Test, Berg Balance Scale, Activities-specific Balance Confidence Scale, Timed “Up & Go” Test, Six-Minute Walk Test, gait speed, cadence, stride length, step width, activities of daily living and motor examination subscales of the Unified Parkinson Disease Rating Scale, and Parkinson Disease Quality of Life Scale.
I’d encourage reading the report for more details on these criteria. Key observations:
All 6 patients in this case series showed improvements on at least 5 of the 12 outcome measures over the baseline at the 12-week test. Except for patient 6, all patients showed improvements in every outcome category, including balance, gait, disability, and quality of life.