Can Exercise Help Manage Early Parkinson's Symptoms?
April is National Parkinson’s Awareness Month, a time designated to shine a light on a neurological disorder that affects more than one million people in the United States. Men older than 60 and adults with a family history of Parkinson’s disease (PD) are at higher risk for the disease.
PD causes a loss of muscle control. Movement-related issues are the most common symptoms: tremors in the hands, feet, and mouth; difficulty walking and standing; and problems writing and holding utensils.
While there is no cure for the disease, newer research highlights the role that exercise can play in improving the quality of life for people with PD. Regular exercise has been shown to improve walking, balance, and muscle stiffness.
Parkinson’s Disease and Exercise
Research from the Parkinson’s Outcome Project investigated many different treatments and activities and the impact they had on quality of life for people with PD. Establishing an exercise routine early in the disease process and sticking with it is the key.
Researchers divided participants with PD into two groups:
- One group engaged in at least 2.5 hours of exercise each week beginning shortly after their diagnosis.
- The second group didn’t begin exercising until their disease had progressed.
Both groups were assessed for mood changes, social interaction, happiness, and satisfaction with their level of mobility. Those who stayed active longer had significantly higher levels of happiness and mobility satisfaction than those who delayed or neglected to exercise.
But that’s not all. Here are two additional research projects that showed promising results:
- A University of Southern California study showed that routine exercise improves the brain’s ability to process dopamine. This is the medication commonly prescribed to combat PD symptoms.
- In a University of Pittsburgh study, PD researchers discovered something interesting in the brain scans of participants: neurons that process dopamine were healthier and stronger in the most physically active individuals.
Here’s how you can help a senior loved one safely begin exercising with PD.
How to Help a Senior with Parkinson’s Begin an Exercise Program
- Physician’s advice: As with any new form of exercise when you are older or live with a chronic health condition, first talk with the treating physician. This will ensure the adult with PD engages in activities that are appropriate for their abilities.
- ”Tips for Becoming Physically Active” is a quick tip sheet from the Parkinson’s Foundation. It has sound advice for starting and sticking with an exercise program.
- The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research shares similar tips and advice to help people with PD make exercise a routine part of their week.
Live With Action at Sunrise
Staying physically active is important at any age. At Sunrise communities, we host wellness activities designed to make staying fit easy and fun. Visit the Sunrise community nearest you to learn more about how our residents Live With Action each day.