About six years ago, I did not know much about Parkinson’s Disease. These days, it is thought of as a disease that only affects older people. I did, too, until I became friends with two people who lived with it- and they were my age. I do not know if they know their diagnosis changed so many lives, including my own. I was finally able to accept myself by talking with other people with neurological problems.
The purpose of this article is to give more exposure to this often-misunderstood disease. Also, to relay this: Parkinson’s Disease does not exclude them from remaining optimistic.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. Symptoms start gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. Tremors are common, but the disorder also commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement. (Mayo Clinic)
PD can be found in individuals of any age, race, class, or ethnicity. Some statistics:
Approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with PD each year. More than 10 million people worldwide are living with PD. Incidence of Parkinson’s disease increases with age, but an estimated four percent of people with PD are diagnosed before age 50. Men are 1.5 times more likely to have Parkinson’s disease than women. (Statistics – Parkinson’s Foundation, https://www.parkinson.org/Understanding-Parkinsons/Statistics.)
I assure you there is hope to be found in exercise. While I do not have Parkinson’s Disease, I have my own neurological condition and have used extremely similar exercises. They have benefitted me greatly. Perhaps Parkinson’s does not yet have a cure: but there is hope. I don’t believe the people I have worked with are supplying me false information.
While there are certainly medical treatments used by doctors to treat Parkinson’s; I am not a licensed medical professional and would be crossing a blatant line to tell people what they should absolutely put IN their body. I am NASM trained CPT (personal trainer) and specialize in Parkinson’s Disease. I have worked with PD clients and have witnessed vast improvements. I have had them relayed to me, as well: by the individuals. To say that exercise can “cure” PD would be an outright lie. Perhaps not: but it can ease the symptoms.
Now comes the crux.
When I collaborate with clients with Parkinson’s for personal training, sometimes they are surprised to find that I AM them.
I do not divulge my medical history to everyone I meet. The following is an article on some of it:https://www.hormonesmatter.com/surviving-and-thriving-after-cerebellar-stroke/
The Use of Physical Conditioning of Parkinson’s Patients
We all know physical activity and healthy balance are important to individuals WITHOUT this disease. For people with PD is holds even more value. The neurological system is not working properly. Some not all physical symptoms lie with balance, coordination, and tremors. The following are some physical symptoms of PD:
· Tremors, trembling of hands, arms, legs, jaw and face
· Stiffness of the arms, legs and trunk
· Slowness of movement
· Poor balance and coordination
· Speech difficulty
Obviously, movements promoting muscular balance and fluidity are vitally important. The most important form of exercise for PD is one which includes repetition and complex movements. The benefits of physical exercise for those with PD can be found here https://www.parkinson.org/Understanding-Parkinsons/Treatment/Exercise
The implementation of repetitive movement is paramount to me: I have seen the use of such in my physical activity perform “miracles” that cannot be explained by most medical professionals. In the following section I will give examples of some exercises used with individuals with Parkinson’s Disease.
Specific Techniques Used Regarding Physicality and Cognition
The first of several main exercises used is seated boxing. The repetitive and complex nature of this exercise targets the neurological nature and fluidity of the muscles. This increases arm steadiness and muscular fluidity and can reduce such things as improper control and shakiness. Seated boxing is one of the most widely used techniques in physically condition Parkinson’s patients. The largest part of my schooling is this area was devoted to this technique. It is a commonly used practice throughout the worlds of both the physical training and physical therapy of Parkinson’s patients. Complex exercises are important in the physical conditioning of Parkinson’s patients, as the encourage the systematic neurons to sustain homeostasis and functional control under fluid, daily conditions. While I can speak on this from a theoretic standpoint- the following is an example of a standard Parkinson’s boxing class:https://parkinsonfoundation.org/blog/what-is-parkinsons-boxing , Here you may view an easily watched video of this technique as touted by a neuroscientist specializing in movement technique:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32Y19dVc-TY
This is a surprising and effective exercise used in the physical conditioning of individuals with Parkinson’s. Many find this undertaking daunting as it often it takes strenuous effort by those with advanced PD. Tai Chi helps rewire neural channels in the brain. The repeated movements and connections made between the body and brain often result in greater stability and functional control concerning daily function. More information can be found here as well as abundant information given by doctor, physical therapists, and individual research: https://www.parkinsonsdaily.com/tai-chi-and-parkinsons/
This gentle yet often strenuous exercise can improve not only physical issues. A surprising side effect is cognitive improvement. Massive amounts of oxygen consumed during this undertaking can result in an increase in mental cognition: https://sciencex.com/news/2021-07-boosts-brain-health-scientists-dont.html It in unclear exactly why. My experience witnessing the physical and mental improvements of my teammates while on a swim team has resulted in my belief in its effects.
I do not believe it is widespread knowledge as to how Parkinson’s Disease affects mental and physical health. One of my best friends is afflicted. The depression, sleep disturbances, the physical accidents, the belief that you are physically damaged and somehow a problem. Know that you are not. You are not Parkinson’s. Individuals may have Parkinson’s. It does not define Those with Parkinson’s may find some improvement in your abilities through physical conditioning!