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There is a growing consensus that more exercise is better, and there is concern that many PwP are being given outdated or incomplete exercise recommendations.
Here are a few key quotes for his lessons learned:
What have I learned?
Firstly, don’t accept the limitations others may predict, assume, or recommend because of Parkinson’s disease. I don’t, and won’t, accept that my physical capacity is any less than that of anyone else. Parkinson’s disease has been an inconvenience, not an obstacle, for strenuous, physical activity…
I’ve been working hard to regain the strength in my right arm that Parkinson’s took away from me. I’m making progress. Weight training is a key ingredient in these efforts. It is important to stress that vigorous exercise is not all about cardio, in fact, weight training is a key component.
More specifically, I’m referring to weight training as a progressive resistance exercise. This is a strength training method in which the load is gradually increased to allow muscles to adapt. The body adapts to exercise and needs to be constantly challenged in order to continue to grow and change. Essentially, this is the same basic concept we talk about with vigorous exercise, always pushing your limits.
As time progresses, you’re increasing the weight, increasing the number of repetitions between rests, increasing the number of sets, and/or adding additional exercises to target complimentary muscles.
Without a doubt, PD (and aging in general) makes this harder to achieve. But every small increase confirms that you’re getting stronger. And over time, those small increases can add up to something significant.
A few years ago, Dr. Daniel Corcos, with the University of Illinois at Chicago, led a 2 year randomized controlled trial of Parkinson’s which compared the effects of weight training vs. more general flexibility, strength and balance exercises. The conclusions were clear:
I’ve started this topic to collect references to studies that explore the neuroprotective benefits of vigorous exercise to slow the progression of Parkinson’s Disease.
Let’s start with a few quotes from the National Parkinson Foundation …
Research has shown that exercise can improve gait, balance, tremor, flexibility, grip strength and motor coordination.
There is a strong consensus among physicians and physical therapists that improved mobility decreases the risk of falls and some other complications of Parkinson’s.
Beyond this, we know that people who exercise vigorously, for example by doing things like running or riding a bicycle, have fewer changes in their brains caused by aging.
However, when it comes to exercise and PD, greater intensity equals greater benefits. Experts recommend that people with Parkinson’s, particularly young onset or those in the early stages, exercise with intensity for as long as possible as often as possible. Your doctor might recommend an hour a day three or four times a week, but most researchers think that the more you do, the more you benefit.
I first stumbled across Dr. David H. Blatt’s website http://www.exerciseforparkinsons.com when I was searching for information about skiing and Parkinson’s. He has a number of interesting videos on his YouTube channel. But, this video is on a YouTube Channel of his friend Mark Smith.
Check it out:
David has posted additional commentary on his website: