Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative condition that affects the nerve cells in the brain that produce the chemical dopamine. Dopamine is involved in sending nerve signals and hence as the nerve cells generate the whole body is affected. When the brain is no longer able to control the muscles, symptoms will become apparent including:
increased muscle tone (stiffness)
abnormal movement patterns including 'freezing' and balance disorders.
Often drug therapy is used to control the symptoms, however this may only be for a limited time. The drugs used either replace or maintain the levels of dopamine, however as symptoms worsen there is a need for a higher dose of these drugs.
Parkinson's disease is idiopathic meaning that the cause is unknown. However, there is continual research that shows its leaning towards ageing, genetics, environmental factors and chemical exposure as being factors.
Exercise is important in Parkinson's for two main reasons; managing symptoms and slowing the disease.
Managing the symptoms.
People with Parkinson's disease often reduce movement due to being unsteady or afraid, however this also leads to loss of fitness and strength which in turn makes symptoms worse overall. By completing supervised exercise with an Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Parkinson's suffers may regain some strength, balance and fitness which will reduce the risk of falling. Exercise also assists in lowering muscle tone and reducing muscle stiffness associated with the condition. It helps to improve movement patterns and gait, reducing the 'freezing' often felt by sufferers. By managing and often improving the symptoms associated with Parkinson's, activities of everyday living become easier and independence is maintained through exercise.
Slowing the disease
Exercise as a whole can be beneficial in slowing down the disease, however there are some programs such as the PD warrior program which focus on the neuro-plasticity of the brains natural ability to reorganise its pathways to reduce the progression of the disease. There is increasing research to show that intensive, high–effort, complex exercise has the potential to slow the progression of your symptoms by using this principle of neuro plasticity. With damage to the basil ganglia in the brain as a result of Parkinson's, tasks that once were automated such as walking, talking and swallowing become less automated and require more concentration/ conscious thought to complete, thus leaving less ability to multi task. By doing specific exercise such as the PD warrior program, the ability to multi task improves allowing everyday tasks such as walking with bags or cooking to become easier.
Exercise in Parkinson's disease is more than going to a gym or going for a run, its very specific and needs to be completed properly in-order to be neuro active and get the results that will manage, and hopefully slow the disease.
Book you initial assessment with one of our Exercise Physiologists today to get started.