Parkinson’s Disease and physical activity

Parkinson’s Disease and physical activity

Regular exercise is an important component for our overall well being but especially for those living with Parkinson’s. For those coping with this degenerative disease, certain exercises can serve as a form of therapeutic medicine and even slow the progression of symptoms.

Physical activity is highly beneficial for those living with Parkinson’s disease as it can improve mobility, flexibility, coordination and balance and even slow the progression of symptoms. Aerobic and resistance exercises, yoga and tai chi, dual task training and adapted dance classes can help improve cardiovascular health and overall wellbeing. 

If you or your loved one is coping with a Parkinson’s diagnosis your healthcare team along with your support network can work with you to create and facilitate a physical activity routine to improve your motor skills, flexibility and endurance as well as your working memory, quality of sleep and decision making. 

Can physical activity help Parkinson’s disease?

Engaging in regular physical activity has proven time and time again to offer some remarkable benefits for people living with Parkinson’s and plays a vital role in managing this condition effectively. 

Some of the improvements that have been brought to light for Parkinson’s disease and exercise include:

  • Improved mobility and flexibility – Parkinson’s often leads to stiffness and a reduction in the range of motion. Engaging in regular exercise including stretching and flexibility exercises, can help to improve mobility and reduce stiffness.
  • Enhanced balance and coordination – Exercise programs that focus on balance and coordination can help those with Parkinson’s to maintain better control over their movements.
  • Cardiovascular benefits – It is important for people living with Parkinson’s to maintain their general health and well-being and aerobic exercise can improve cardiovascular health and overall fitness.
  • Neuroprotective effects – Research from the Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience suggests that exercise may help to potentially slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease and even reduce the risk of developing it.
  • Reduce symptoms – Exercise can also help to manage symptoms such as tremors, and bradykinesia (slowness of movement).
  • Mental health benefits – exercise has been known to have positive effects on our mental health as well. It can help to reduce anxiety and depression commonly associated with Parkinson’s disease, while also encouraging a sense of empowerment and control over your own body and the disease itself.

How does Parkinson’s disease affect physical activity?

Parkinson’s disease can have a significant impact on how we participate in physical activity due to its effects on the nervous system, motor functions and overall mobility. This neurodegenerative disorder affects the brain’s dopamine-producing cells, leading to a range of motor symptoms such as tremors, stiffness, and impaired balance.

Parkinson’s disease can definitely create challenges for people living with the condition to initiate and maintain an exercise routine. Motor symptoms can cause difficulties with coordination and balance, making certain activities harder or even unsafe.

However, as we now know that physical activity plays a crucial role in helping to manage symptoms and also slow progression of the disease, it’s important that you work with your healthcare team to develop effective and adapted exercise routines that can significantly improve your quality of life.

What activities are good for Parkinson’s disease?

When considering your exercise plan, choose activities that focus on improving your flexibility, strength, balance and overall mobility. Some examples may include:

  • Aerobic exercises such as walking, cycling and swimming, all of which can be low impact and adapted to different fitness levels.
  • Strength training such as resistance exercises with resistance bands or weights to help build and maintain strength as well as improve muscle integrity.
  • Balance and coordination exercises such as yoga and tai chi can help you to enhance your flexibility, balance, and your overall body awareness.
  • Flexibility exercises including stretching routines or something more structured such as pilates, can reduce stiffness and focus on your core strength. 
  • Dance classes that are designed for people living with Parkinson’s can help you to improve your balance, coordination and even your mood.

It’s important to consult with your healthcare team before you start any physical activity program. They can guide you to develop and tailor an exercise plan that takes into account your unique symptoms and needs to ensure you have the best outcomes. The type and intensity of exercise may vary based on your overall health, stage of Parkinson’s disease and your personal preferences.

Physical therapy exercises for Parkinson’s disease

Don’t underestimate the power of physical therapy when it comes to managing Parkinson’s symptoms. Physical therapy exercises play a crucial role in managing Parkinson’s disease by addressing unique challenges such as bradykinesia, stiffness, and impaired balance and can work in unison with your otherwise chosen physical activities.

Your physical therapy exercises may include:

  • Gait training – including activities like marching in place or heel-to-toe walking, helps counter the slowness of movement and improve coordination. 
  • Range of motion exercises – such as arm swings and neck stretches, address stiffness and promote flexibility in affected areas. 
  • Strength training exercises – like sit-to-stand movements and leg lifts, work to maintain and build muscle strength, crucial for combating weakness often associated with Parkinson’s. 
  • Balance exercises – such as standing on one leg or turning exercises, contribute to stability and reduce the risk of falls.
  • Cognitive-motor integration exercises – like dual-tasking activities, serve to challenge both physical and cognitive functions simultaneously, providing a comprehensive approach to addressing the multifaceted nature of Parkinson’s symptoms.

How can a support worker help with physical activity?

Maple extends an extensive range of support services from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) support to specialised assistance. Our dedicated Support Workers are adept at evaluating your personal circumstances, engaging in discussions about your preferences and tailoring the optimal physical activity routine that aligns with your evolving needs. 

Maple Services takes great pride in its strategic partnerships with Athletics NSW and various local community sporting organisations, which have become a cornerstone of its commitment to fostering education and creating opportunities for the disabled community across Australia. 

Through these collaborations, Maple Services extends its reach beyond traditional community services, empowering individuals with disabilities through tailored physical activity programs and inclusive sports environments. 

By offering a platform for education, engagement, and skill development, Maple Services’ partnerships epitomise its dedication to enhancing the lives of those it serves. This is just another reason as to why people choose Maple for their Community Services needs.