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:
The severity of motor symptoms, including tremors, was measured using the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) after six, 12, 18 and 24 months of exercise. Scores were taken when the participants were not taking their medication.
While both forms of exercise reduced motor symptoms at six months of exercise, participants who did weight training saw a 7.3 point improvement in their UPRDS score after two years while the fitness counts group turned to the same scores they had at the start of the study.
That’s right…a net improvement over 2 years. Most people with PD would be happy to maintain the same level, so technically both groups are winning…illustrating the importance of exercise. But the weight training group seeing improvement shows that vigorous exercise can not only maintain, but can improve the patient’s Parkinsonian symptoms.
2 years…coincidentally, that’s where I am in my journey with PD right now. With a net improvement. I’m setting small goals one day at a time. Pushing forward one small victory at a time.
Back to the study…
Here’s a press release from the American Academy of Neurology that summarizes the study: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/study-weight-training-improves-parkinsons-symptoms-139470108.html
The full study “A Two Year Randomized Controlled Trial of Progressive Resistance Exercise for Parkinson’s Disease” is available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3701730/
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