Exercising With Parkinson’s Disease
Whether one embraces it or not, it is a well-known fact that exercise is an important part of healthy living for everyone. That it can be very beneficial and is in fact, vital for people afflicted with health conditions and disorders, is not as widely known or accepted in practice, as needed. Parkinson’s Disease is one such condition for which exercise is important for more than one reason.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that predominantly affects dopamine* producing neurons in the brain (*Dopamine, aka ‘happy hormone’, is a neurotransmitter/messenger that controls mental and emotional responses along with motor reactions). PD is a progressive/long-term central nervous system disorder that affects movement. The symptoms, often starting with tremors and feeling of stiffness in the body, develop gradually. These aren’t, however, restricted to motor functions related (movement, coordination, gait) alone, but also include non-movement symptoms such as mood changes (including depression), sleep problems, skin problems, constipation, etc.
Physical activity and exercise can help improve many PD symptoms by helping in maintaining balance, mobility, and performing daily chores and activities better. The benefits of exercising are supported by research, and I have personally seen these manifest well in my PD clients, allowing them a greater sense of control and helping them lead a better quality of life. Some of these clients are pursuing sporting activities like others around and finding a heightened sense of empowerment and positivity in handling their conditions.
What Type Of Exercises Can Be Done?
While everyone’s symptoms and rate of progression will be an individual affair, impacting choice and intensity of exercise, it makes sense to have a broad approach while ensuring key ingredients like aerobic capacity, flexibility (stretching exercises), and strengthening (resistance training) are addressed. Incorporating directional changes, rhythmical movements, tempo changes, along with repetitive patterns, can yield added benefits for concentration, balance, and control. There are quite a few options to choose from: walking, hiking, jogging, racquet sports (e.g. tennis, squash, badminton), cycling, dancing, yoga, Tai Chi, swimming (preferably using different strokes), aerobics routines, throwing and catching balls, using weights (as per ability), etc. Activities that engage and challenge mentally (puzzles, quizzes, Sudoku, etc.) along with singing, painting, or pursuing any art form can help address the mental and emotional strengthening aspects.
There is no one type of exercise prescription that is ‘best’ or ‘right’. However, being aware of what you can do and how to do it is imperative.
Points To Consider Before Starting:
- Safety is paramount. Before embarking on any exercise program, consult your doctor and medical team.
- Refer to a rehab/physical or exercise therapist trained and educated to work with PD. She/he will be able to safely prescribe an exercise program and guide through the ups and downs of symptoms.
- Try and follow a structured exercise program that works around your concerns and symptomatic limitations. This will ensure better progress and adherence.
- Change your routine (in a safe, prescribed manner) to maintain motivation and interest.
- Acceptance and Mindfulness will make the process less daunting and more enjoyable. Remember, you should be aiming for physical, mental, and emotional progress.
Movement is therapeutic. Seek it, embrace it, and feel the change.
About Vani Pahwa
Vani B. Pahwa is Health & Wellness Evangelist, and Founder, Body In Motion, who specializes in Functional-Fitness, and Cancer Exercise & Rehabilitation. With almost 2 decades of experience, and certifications from leading internationally-accredited and globally-recognized fitness institutions, Vani is the leading Wellness Expert for Multinational Corporations and is a recognized Speaker and Coach. An Indian Classical Dancer, Vani encompasses her learnings from dance to everyday movement making “exercise and training for life, not just events.” To know more about Vani and her premium wellness services, visit https://www.bodyinmotion.in