More and more research shows that exercise is important in slowing the progression and decreasing the symptoms of Parkinson’s. Physical therapy along with exercise is crucial in the management of Parkinson’s disease.
Ideally, you want to start Parkinson’s-specific physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy at diagnosis. Then check in with your Parkinson’s physical therapist every six-to-twelve months to keep tabs on the quality of your movements. Consult your therapist sooner if you have a decline or a fall.
Learning to monitor self-movement is not easily done alone. Exercise should be considered a maintenance program between stints of physical therapy boosters. PD exercise professionals are essential team members in your fight against PD.
Physical therapy and exercise for Parkinson’s changes your brain structure and functionality resulting in reduced motor and non-motor symptoms. Common movement symptoms that are eased by exercise including stiffness, freezing, small movements, slowness, impaired posture, weakness, imbalance, falls, and difficulty walking. Exercise also reduces non-movement symptoms of Parkinson’s including anxiety, cognitive problems, depression, sleeplessness, fatigue, and constipation. Furthermore, exercise has implications in modifying the disease process and slowing the progression of Parkinson’s.
Parkinson’s-specific exercise aids in the process of changing your brain circuitry and results in easier movement. Mounting research continues to support the role of exercise in re-wiring your brain’s neural connections. This is a phenomenon in the brain known as neuroplasticity, and it is achievable at any age. Through these exercise-induced brain changes, you can gain and maintain freedom of movement despite Parkinson’s disease.
Technically, the sooner you start to exercise after diagnosis, the better. Exercising earlier in your diagnosis protects the dopamine neurons that are still there and preserves them. Exercise makes the damaged dopamine circuits work more efficiently. Also, if you exercise sooner than later, your brain produces more dopamine receptors. Simply put, your brain drinks up any available dopamine better and faster thanks to more receptors. All of these benefits result in fewer symptoms.
Not to worry, it’s never too late to start exercising. Later exercisers also significantly benefit, but it takes longer to get results. Therefore, remember to be patient as you embrace this lifestyle change if you start later in your Parkinson’s progression.
Also, the overall brain health of those who start exercise later compared to those who don’t exercise at all is better due to less inflammation, more blood circulation to the brain, and more efficient brain circuitry. Keep in mind that healthier brains are better equipped to combat PD, and exercise promotes a healthy brain at any age.
Parkinson’s exercise classes provide an outlet for sustained movement practice that extends the benefits achieved from physical therapy. Parkinson’s exercise classes are complementary for improving aspects of movement, cognition, mood, motivation, and quality of life. All classes are held in a supportive environment that promotes community engagement, morale, and accountability to keep you on track.