A Growing Body of Research Supports Exercise to Manage Parkinson’s Disease

According to a story from Parkinson’s News Today, more and more research is indicating the exercise can have many significant benefits for Parkinson’s disease patients. While there are no therapies that can effectively slow the progression of the disease or offer a cure, it has become clear that exercise can play a vital role in providing relief from the worst symptoms.

About Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a type of long term, progressive, degenerative illness that affects the central nervous system. Symptoms tend to develop over a period of years and primarily affect the movement ability and mental state of the patient. The cause of Parkinson’s disease remains a mystery, although there are a number of risk factors that have been identified. These factors include head injuries, pesticide exposure, and certain genetic variants and mutations. About 15 percent of patients have a close relative with the disease, suggesting some genetic connection. Symptoms include slowed movements, poor coordination, trouble walking, shaking, stiffness, abnormal posture, depression, anxiety, inhibited thinking, hallucinations, and dementia. Treatment may involve a number of medications, rehabilitation, and surgical operations. Survival rate varies, but most patients survive around a decade after getting diagnosed. To learn more about Parkinson’s disease, click here.

Parkinson’s Disease and Exercise

The precise manner in which exercise provides benefits for Parkinson’s disease patients is still a subject of debate. A large scale ongoing study from the Parkinson’s Outcome Project recommends that patients should try to exercise for 2.5 hours per week to maintain their quality of life and stave off progression of the disease. Another study recommends that patients should begin regularly exercising as soon as possible after diagnosis.

The standard medication for most Parkinson’s patients is called Levodopa; it cannot stop the disease from progressing, but it alleviates symptoms by increasing dopamine levels in the brain. Exercise can enhance the effect because it also increases dopamine. 

Push to the Limit

The type of exercise can also have an impact. Fairly high intensity aerobic exercise appears to be the most useful for helping Parkinson’s patients. Rock Steady Boxing is a nonprofit organization which caters specifically to Parkinson’s disease patients, welcoming participants of all skill levels into exercise programs of non-combat boxing and other activities. These classes are held in over 700 locations throughout the US and research has shown that the program can improve motor symptoms. 

To learn more about Rock Steady, click here.

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