Balance Exercises for Parkinson’s

(Author’s Note: Oops, I pressed the button to publish this article and video compilation before it was complete. Please consider it a work in progress.)

Balance Training is not a Parkinson’s specific issue, it is an issue for everyone as they age.

Selecting the appropriate balance exercises will depend on how good your balance currently is. There are many factors that affect balance, and it can be argued that all leg strengthening and core strengthening and flexibility exercises are, in a way, balance exercises.

I’ve highlighted a few videos that provide ideas to consider when selecting balance exercises. If you watch the videos, you’ll notice the final video seems out of place. That is because I have a theory that many Parkinson’s balance issues are related to turning difficulties. Improving neck flexibility (the first video) and adding resistance to trunk/ab twists (the last video) are two exercises that help improve turning deficiencies.
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Targeting PD Tremors with Strength Training: Forearm, Wrist and Grip

Most of us have tremors in our lower arm and wrist. In this video, we discuss strength training exercises targeting the forearm, wrist and grip … simple low intensity exercises that are a great way to start the day.

The equipment used in this video:

TheraBand FlexBar –

Grip Strengthener:

Bowflex SelectTech Adjustable Dumbbells –

Exercise can improve non-motor symptoms of PD (hint: mental & cognitive function)

A recent study reminds us that exercise does more than just improve motor symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, such as tremor, gait disturbances, and postural instability. Exercise can improve non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, specifically mental and cognitive function.

According to this study:

Up to 57% of patients suffering from PD develop mild cognitive impairment within five years of their initial diagnosis, and if they survive more than ten years, the majority will eventually develop dementia.

This study reviewed earlier studies of exercise and Parkinson’s Disease.

They found 5 studies that had significant group size and included cognitive testing. There was a positive effect of aerobic exercise on memory and executive function. Combined resistance and coordination exercise helped global cognitive function. Two trials showed that coordination exercise led to improved executive function compared with that of non-exercising control subjects.

They concluded:

All modes of exercise are associated with improved cognitive function in individuals with PD. Aerobic exercise tended to best improve memory; however, a clear effect of exercise mode was not identified.

Personally, I hadn’t considered this aspect of exercise. In the short term, people with PD tend to see mobility issues as having the biggest impact on quality of life. But long term, if the majority of us are going to develop dementia, that has a much larger impact on quality of life. This review study is a good reminder on the importance of exercise.

Study press release:

Study details:

Study: Exercising 2.5 hours per week slows Parkinson’s Disease

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.

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PD 101: Exercise, Medication, Nutrition & Lifestyle

Since being diagnosed with PD in 2014, I’ve had the pleasure to meet individuals who have lived with Parkinson’s for 10 to 20 years, and even longer. The common theme for living well with PD is regular exercise and staying active. PD may be a life sentence, but it is far from being a death sentence.

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.

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