According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, about 60,000 Americans are diagnosed per year, with approximately seven to ten million worldwide living with the disease. Anybody who’s had a friend, or family member facing this illness knows how important it is to be a strong support system, and encourage them to focus less on the can’t do’s, and more on what they CAN. Studies are showing exercise, particularly heart pumping movement, to be one of the best ways to improve muscle function, and coordination, especially when performed during the early onset of the disease.
The National Parkinson’s Foundation conducted a study called the Parkinson’s Outcomes Project with promising results showing patients engaging in exercise early in their diagnosis were able to improve their quality of life rather than wait until later on when motor function made it more difficult. Dopamine is the brain’s neurotransmitter responsible for movement, and cognition, and is a trademark deficiency in Parkinson’s sufferers. Exercise naturally increases dopamine levels and has a positive effect on depression making it one of the best prescriptions to manage the progression of symptoms.
A regular exercise program is the first line of defense for someone living with Parkinson’s. Challenging exercises that may be new or require learning a different skill increase brain function. Practicing Tai Chi and yoga are exceptional for improving balance and reducing the risk of falls. Swimming and aquatic therapy provide the support of the water with no impact to joints. Researchers recommend a vigorous exercise that increases the heart rate whenever possible, and should always be under the advice of a physician. Making exercise a part of the treatment plan is an empowering way to practice self-care and to make a positive difference each and every day. To find a Parkinson’s support group in your area contact (800) 457-6676 or visit http://www.pdf.org/en/support_list