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Exercise For Parkinson’s Disease

In this article, we'll explore Parkinson's disease, its early indicators, the impact of exercise on its symptoms, and the types of exercises beneficial for individuals living with Parkinson's Disease.

Understanding Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's disease is a neurological disorder that disrupts the nervous system, primarily affecting movement. While it is more common in individuals over 60, it can also manifest in those as young as 40 or even earlier.

This progressive condition primarily targets the dopamine-producing neurons within the substantia nigra of the brain. Its symptoms often surface gradually, with some being barely noticeable. Common signs include tremors, slowed movement, balance issues, and stiffness in limbs and the body.

The progression of symptoms varies among individuals due to the diverse nature of the disease. Despite extensive research, the precise cause remains unknown, and the prognosis for individuals living with Parkinson's disease is typically around ten years, though this varies from person to person.

Parkinsons Disease Sunshine Coast

Statistics and Prevalence in Australia

In Australia, Parkinson's disease is a significant health concern. It affects approximately 1 in 340 Australians, with over 100,000 people currently living with the condition. This number is expected to rise with an aging population. Understanding the prevalence of Parkinson's in Australia underscores the importance of raising awareness about this condition and its management.

Identifying Early Signs

Sometimes, the initial signs of Parkinson's disease are so subtle that they can easily go unnoticed. Here are ten early signs to watch for:

  • Tremor - Noticeable shaking in fingers, thumbs, hands, or chin while at rest.

  • Reduced sense of smell - Particularly with foods like dill pickles, licorice, or bananas.

  • Difficulty sleeping - Due to sudden movements during sleep.

  • Significant changes in handwriting - Writing becomes much smaller or crowded.

  • Change in posture - Leaning, stooping, or slouching when standing.

  • Constipation - Regularly straining during bowel movements.

  • Voice changes - Unusually soft or low voice.

  • Dizziness or fainting - Frequent occurrences when standing up.

  • Facial masking - Appearing sad, depressed, serious, or angry even when not in a bad mood.

  • Movement - Limb or body stiffness, difficulty initiating movements, and hip pain.

It's essential to note that the aforementioned signs and symptoms can also be attributed to other, often minor issues. Therefore, consulting a medical professional is crucial before jumping to conclusions about the possible cause.

Exercise as Symptom Management

Currently, there is no cure for Parkinson's disease, but treatment options are available to manage its symptoms, including medications, surgical interventions, and exercise.

A comprehensive review of studies and case reviews conducted in 2018 underscores the importance of various forms of regular physical activity in reducing the risk of falls, improving motor skills, balance and gait for those with Parkinson's disease, thereby enhancing their quality of life.

We're all aware of the health benefits of exercise, but for individuals with Parkinson's, exercise is a therapeutic approach to managing their symptoms. Regular physical activity is vital for addressing mobility, balance, and activities of daily living that are affected by the disease.

Research indicates that individuals who commence exercising at least 2.5 hours a week during the early stages of the disease, when symptoms are less severe, experience a slower decline in their quality of life compared to those who start later. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to incorporate regular exercise routines early in the management of the condition.

Gentle Exercise for Parkinsons

Exercise Regimens Suitable for Parkinson's Disease

The most suitable exercises may vary from person to person, depending on the severity of the disease and overall health. However, according to the Parkinson's Disease Clinic and Research Centre, exercise routines should encompass stretching, strength, balance, rhythm, cardiovascular, and unplanned movement exercises.

Examples include:

Planned and repeated movement exercises:

  • Cycling on a stationary bike.

  • Swimming with a consistent stroke.

  • Gentle weightlifting.

  • Slow treadmill walking.

These exercises aim to enhance balance through repetitive movements. If possible, incorporating activities that engage the mind, such as singing, watching a quiz show, or playing catch, can be valuable.

Unplanned and random movement exercises:

  • Cycling.

  • Aerobics.

  • Swimming with various strokes.

  • Walking, hiking, or jogging.

  • Marching with arm swings.

  • Dancing in any style.

  • Yoga, Pilates, or Tai Chi.

  • Sports like badminton, squash, tennis, or table tennis.

These exercises challenge both mental and physical faculties. Daily exercise not only benefits Parkinson's patients but is a wise choice for individuals of all ages and health conditions. The intensity of activities can be adjusted to match your fitness level and symptom severity.

Seeking Assistance from an Exercise Physiologist

We've highlighted the significant benefits of exercise as a component of Parkinson's disease treatment, offering a variety of exercises that include stretching, balance, strength, rhythm, cardiovascular, and unplanned movement activities. For many people, this is best done under the guidance and support of an accredited exercise physiologist.

Seeking guidance from an exercise physiologist is proven to be highly beneficial in managing and alleviating the severity of Parkinson's symptoms, leading to increased independence, greater confidence, and a more active, social lifestyle. To learn more, or book an appointment, please contact Full Circle Wellness.

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