Exercise & Parkinson’s Disease

Thank you to Galen Friesen, Colorado State University Student and Covell Care intern for providing this guest blog post!

Parkinson’s disease has been shown to affect a wide range of aspects of life. Although commonly associated with loss of physical functioning, PD also effects cognitive functioning, sleep quality, mood, and anxiety and fatigue levels. Of the non-motor symptoms, cognitive impairments are the most prevalent, with 83% of patients developing dementia after 20 years [1]. Non-motor symptoms can greatly affect overall quality of life, but are difficult to treat in patients with PD as antidepressant medication can worsen motor symptoms in some instances [2]. Exercise has been shown to aid non motor symptoms by improving cognitive functioning in individuals diagnosed with PD.

Exercise is well-known to improve agility, power, and mobility. This fact still holds true for those affected by Parkinson’s Disease. Exercise has been shown to slow the loss of coordination, posture, and balance associated with PD. Along with this, exercise also helps to protect the brain and nerves- acute exercise causes the release of Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), a protein that stimulates growth of nerves and works to maintain existing neuronal pathways [3].

According to the Parkinson’s Outcome Project, individuals who start exercising early at a minimum of 2.5 hours per week experienced a slower decline in quality of life than those who started later. Biking, non-contact boxing, Tai Chi, yoga, and weight training are all acceptable and beneficial modalities of exercise for individuals with PD.

Talking to your primary healthcare provider or physical therapist is a great way to take first steps towards adopting a new exercise routine. There are also many new boxing and dance classes being specifically created for individuals with PD, Contact the Parkinson’s Foundation’s toll-free Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (473-4636) or helpline@parkinson.org to find one near you. Or contact Covell Care & Rehabilitation at (970) 204-4331 to find out how to get an exercise program going.

[1]The Effects of Exercise on Balance in Persons with… : Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://journals.lww.com/jnpt/Fulltext/2009/03000/The_Effects_of_Exercise_on_Balance_in_Persons_with.3.aspx
[2]Cruise, K. E., Bucks, R. S., Loftus, A. M., Newton, R. U., Pegoraro, R., & Thomas, M. G. (2010, December 03). Exercise and Parkinson’s: Benefits for cognition and quality of life. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1600-0404.2010.01338.x

[3] Tajiri, Yasuhara, Shingo, Kondo, Yuan, Kadota, . . . Date. (2010). Exercise exerts neuroprotective effects on Parkinson’s disease model of rats. Brain Research., 1310, 200-207. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19900418
[4]Exercise. (2018, June 14). Retrieved from https://www.parkinson.org/Understanding-Parkinsons/Treatment/Exercise