Why is exercise good for us?
Exercise has many benefits for all age groups. It can increase strength, improve heart health, and help to keep a healthy weight or even lose weight. Exercise also lowers the risk of getting many diseases like cancer, stroke, heart disease and diabetes. Luckily, there are a lot of ways to exercise like walking, yoga, swimming, running, weight lifting, and participating in sports.
What happens to someone with Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a brain disorder that gets worse over time. It affects parts of the brain called the basal ganglia which helps our bodies to move strongly, smoothly and quickly. There is no cure and medications become less effective over time.
What kinds of problems does a person with Parkinson’s Disease have?
- slower, smaller movements
- uncontrolled hand shaking (tremor)
- stooped posture
- poor balance
- quiet voice
Overtime, the disease typically gets worse and it affects walking, standing, balance, getting into bed, and getting out of a chair or car. People with PD need increasingly more help with daily activities and are at a high risk for falls.
So, how does exercise help?
It was recently discovered that exercise can help protect the brain by slowing down the disease process, protecting from other injuries, and keeping the healthy parts of the brain strong. Seeing a Physical Therapist is a great way to start exercising in a way that will be both safe and productive. A Physical Therapist’s job is to help to keep people strong, safe, and as independent as possible. Physical Therapists focus on treatments that can help to make people stronger, tolerate more activity and lower the number of falls they have. Exercise helps keep people flexible, increase walking speed and distance, and improve or maintain balance. It also helps make tasks like getting in and out of bed, the tub and the car easier.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) exercise guidelines can be used with people who have PD. The best way to see exercise benefits is by doing it often and at a high intensity, where it you are breathing heavily. If someone is worried about exercising, a Physical Therapist will make sure everyone is safe!
How much and what kind of exercise is needed?
ACSM says exercise for adults should include:
- Aerobic (endurance) activity: 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity per week OR 75 minutes of high intensity per week
- Strengthening activity: 2 times per week of moderate intensity
How intensely are you working?
- Moderate Intensity: light sweating after 10 minutes of activity, and breathing quicker but not out of breath.
- High Intensity: breathing is deep and fast, more sweating, and saying a few words before needing to pause to breathe.
Research has shown…
- Exercises given by physical therapists are safe for people with PD.
- Exercise is best when it is more intense, which means when heart rate is high (70-80% of a person’s highest heart rate).
- Exercise slows down the steady decline of the disease overtime.
- Studies show that exercise makes quality of life better.
Where do I start?
Physical Therapy can be helpful for people at any stage of their Parkinson’s Disease. While a person does not need a doctor’s prescription to see a physical therapist in Wisconsin, the therapists may want a doctor to confirm that there are no concerns about a person’s ability to exercise. People with PD have specific types of problems and there are physical therapists that have specialized training to help them understand and effectively treat these movement challenges. Physical therapists can test people’s current physical ability level and will know the right amount and types of activities people should do, as well as provide specific suggestions for helpful equipment or different ideas to address their challenges. A therapist can tell people about community exercise program, support groups, and give a personalized home exercise program to keep a person safe and moving! The important thing is to stay active.
Looking for more information?
As you now know, there are some therapists who have specialized experience in working with a person with Parkinson’s Disease. Here are some places to look for these people:
If you do not have a specialized therapist in your area, here are some other resources that provide exercise classes for people with Parkinson’s Disease:
If you or someone you know has Parkinson’s Disease, seeing a local physical therapist is a great way to safely exercise and remain active as long as possible!