Parkinson’s Awareness Month: The Importance of Guided Physical Activity for Those with Parkinson’s

Parkinson's DiseaseIn a recent review of research from the National Parkinson’s Foundation on the importance of exercise, it noted “Taking all of the results together, it becomes clear that patients with PD (Parkinson’s disease) should integrate regular physical activity into their daily lives. Furthermore, doctors and healthcare professionals working with patients with PD should advise that vigorous exercise begin immediately on diagnosis, if possible, and continue throughout the course of the disease for as long as the individual is able to exercise.” Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder associated with the degeneration of dopamine producing neurons. The studies note that exercise increases dopamine. Exercise can benefit in two ways:

Symptom management.  Research has shown that exercise can help people move more normally. Exercise may improve brain connections, may help form new connections and may even help restore lost connections. These changes in brain function can result in improvements in gait, motor coordination, balance and grip strength, and can help reduce tremors. Studies examining exercises such as treadmill training, stationary cycling, tai chi and yoga have demonstrated positive results.

Possibly slowing disease progression. Physicians and physical therapists agree that as patients improve their mobility, they reduce their risk of falls, and reduce the risk of other complications of the disease. Through participation in physical therapy, occupational therapy and regular exercise you can improve your mobility, avoid disease related complications and possibly slow the progression of PD.

A wonderful case study.  Lyn Fierri is an amazing woman. The former Deputy Commission of the Department of Mental Retardation for the State of Connecticut, Lyn has always been a take charge woman. Nearly four years ago she began to notice dramatic changes in her handwriting which was getting very small and labored. Lyn received the diagnosis of early Parkinson’s and asked the physician about exercise. He told her it would not only slow the progression of the disease but could even help her improve her current symptoms. She immediately began to work with McLean therapists explaining “It was a matter of strength and dexterity so Laura, my Occupational Therapist helped me with exercises that I still continues to do at home like working with the theraputty. It really helps with my handwriting which is even better and my use of utensils in the kitchen and at the table.” The Physical Therapists helped her learn to use the exercise equipment in the McLean Wellness Gym safely and independently. Lyn works out in the Wellness gym on average three times a week using the specialized treadmill that monitors her gait, the Nu Step for arm and leg strength, and a series of standing balance, coordination and stretching exercises. With a big smile, Lyn also demonstrated simple exercises the Physical Therapists taught her to do on days she does not go to the gym. She practices getting out of chairs without using her arms and uses an aerobic step to practice step ups for maintaining leg strength. “Lyn is focusing on balance, maintaining strength and standing tall; her exercise keeps her ahead of the curve and lowers her risk for falls and disease related complications. She is active and is staying well. I think her exercise plays a big  part in her overall health and independence,” explained Dorothy Villano, DPT, and Supervisor of McLean Wellness.

April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month. Celebrate by learning more from the National Parkinson’s Foundation and call McLean Rehabilitation today at 860-658-3745 if you have Parkinson’s so they may partner with you and your physician for a better quality of life today and in the future.