Parkinson’s disease is an incurable, degenerative neurological condition that causes mobility issues due to excessive tremors, muscle stiffness, and impaired balance. Research shows that a regular exercise program can improve mobility and improve a patient’s quality of life if they suffer from Parkinson’s. This article discusses an exercise program for Parkinson’s patients, but as always you should consult with your physician, physical therapist, or healthcare professional before developing your own exercise regimen if you have specific medical considerations.
Benefits of Regular Exercise for Seniors with Parkinson’s
The following is a list of the benefits of an exercise program for seniors with Parkinson’s disease:
- Inhibition of joint malformation
- Enhanced coordination and balance
- Better posture
- Increased cardiovascular fitness
- Enhanced joint mobility
- Improved muscle strength and flexibility
- Less muscle cramping
- Decreased stress levels
- Better control over gross motor skills, like walking
- Increased confidence in carrying out daily activities.
It has been shown that Parkinson’s disease affects approximately 1 million people in the US and Canada. Parkinson’s occasionally affects younger people, but typically seniors in their late 50s or early 60s begin to see symptoms indicative of the disease. The culprit behind Parkinson’s disease is a problem with the brain’s ability to produce dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that passes information between the brain cells for a variety of actions including muscle motor control. So in a Parkinson’s patient, you see physical symptoms such as tremors, muscle stiffness, impaired gait, and slow ambulation as a result of the loss of this neurotransmitter. Cognitive non-motor muscle symptoms also exist like sleep disorders, apathy, and depression.
A study1 performed at the University of Maryland School of Medicine revealed that low-intensity exercise done for 50 minutes three times a week was the most beneficial at improving Parkinson’s patients’ mobility issues. Since difficulty with walking is the major cause of disability in Parkinson’s disease, these results showed that exercise in people with Parkinson’s disease could make a difference. Although not proven, exercise may postpone the symptoms and help retain independence.
So you are probably wondering, what exactly could Parkinson’s patients do that is considered a form of “low-intensity exercise”? Walking is typically the best exercise option, since it is most functional and it’s an area that most Parkinson’s patients struggle with. Many Parkinson’s patients can walk unassisted, but for those that cannot walk unassisted, there are rehabilitation treadmills that have the ability unweight and stabilize the body for easier and safer ambulation. This combined with a stretching and strength training program could produce results in improved mobility and quality of life for these patients.
To learn more about the revolutionary unweighting technology that has help so many Parkinson’s patients, please check out AlterG’s Anti-Gravity Treadmills.
1. Lisa Shulman, MD – University of Maryland School of Medicine and the Baltimore VA Medical Center – “Research1 has shown that Parkinson’s patients who incorporated a low-intensity, longer duration exercise (walking on a treadmill at a comfortable speed) improved their walking more than patients who walked for less time but at an increased speed and incline, a high-intensity exercise. They also found benefits from stretching and resistance exercises in the study.”