A Few Words on Parkinson’s Disease
I have been a personal trainer in southwest Florida for almost 15 years. For the last six, I have seen an increase in the number of clients diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD). At the time, I really knew nothing about PD other than the notoriety it has gained from several diagnosed celebrities. In order for each client to get the most out of their training session with me, I needed to educate myself on the subject as much as possible. I joined a few support groups, received certification with The American Parkinson Disease Association and got involved with the Neuro Challenge Foundation for Parkinson’s disease. I am sharing some of the things I have learned along the way.
Currently, in the United States, there are over 1 million people affected by the disease. approximately 60,000 Americans are being diagnosed each year. PD is the second most common age-related neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s disease. Men are 1.5 times more likely to be diagnosed than women. There are many ways to keep the disease from progressing but currently, there is no cure and the cause is still relatively unknown. First, what is Parkinson’s disease? PD is a movement, neurological and progressive disorder. Movement disorder because it causes uncontrolled, slow or reduced movement. Neurological because it changes the brain. Progressive because symptoms become worse as we age.
We know there is no cure yet. What can be done to improve the quality of life for someone diagnosed with PD? Exercise. Is it a cure-all? No, yet studies have shown that the benefits of exercise are equal if not greater then the medications for PD. It can also help maintain current abilities and even improve them. People with PD that are sedentary experience worsening of their motor symptoms and non-motor symptoms as well as osteoporosis and an increase with depression. To me, this is significant!
So, just how much exercise are we talking about? Unfortunately, an hour a day is not going to cut it if you spend the rest of your day on the couch. Doctors believe adopting an active lifestyle, i.e. household chores, walking the dog and grocery shopping on top of exercise is crucial.
The CDC (Center for Disease Control) minimum guideline recommendations per week are as follows, 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. Muscle-strengthening two days a week being sure to work on all major muscle groups. It is important to choose an exercise you enjoy. Also, variety helps and setting attainable goals as well as goals that are challenging. Group exercise for the social aspect has shown to be beneficial and can also add to their competitive nature. Many gyms are now offering classes geared toward PD like Thai Chi, boxing, and spinning. All of which is good.
I feel very fortunate to work with these wonderful people over the last several years and I can say for certain that the exercise does help. Along with staying active, there is a noticeable difference as far as the progression of the disease, or lack thereof. Parkinson’s Disease is complicated because no two people are alike or share the same exact symptoms. Instead, what we all share in common is the desire to live a long and happy life. I know exercise is just one of the things to help us achieve that.