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April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month, dedicated to increasing public understanding of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and recognizing the challenges faced by those living with it. A critically important aspect of managing PD is working with a multi-disciplinary team of experts, as there are a variety of interventions from medication to mental health to targeted protein intake that all play a role in minimizing symptoms and slowing progression. As a wellness center, we focus on the importance of lifestyle interventions in managing chronic conditions. This means providing resources, tools and services that empower our clients to make changes in their lives that they have control over to improve their condition and how it affects their quality of life. In this blog post, we will delve into the remarkable power of movement and exercise in helping individuals with PD to regain control over their symptoms.

Understanding Parkinson’s Disease: Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that primarily affects the central nervous system, leading to the impairment of motor function. Common symptoms include tremors, rigidity, slowed movement, and impaired balance. While medications can help manage symptoms, incorporating regular exercise into one’s lifestyle has shown great potential in improving overall physical, mental, and emotional well-being for those living with PD.

Benefits of Exercise for Parkinson’s Management:

  1. Increased Mobility: Regular exercise can help mitigate the physical challenges posed by PD. Engaging in aerobic exercises, such as brisk walking, cycling, or swimming, can improve cardiovascular health, increase flexibility, and promote muscle strength. These benefits collectively contribute to enhanced mobility, making daily activities more manageable and reducing the risk of falls.
  2. Improved Motor Skills and Coordination: PD often causes difficulties in coordination and balance. Engaging in exercises specifically designed to target motor skills can help counteract these challenges. Activities such as tai chi, yoga, and dance have been shown to enhance balance, coordination, and postural stability in individuals with PD. These exercise modalities focus on fluidity of movement, muscle control, and body awareness, helping people regain confidence and control over their bodies.
  3. Improved Strength of Muscle & Voice: Some common symptoms of PD are muscle wasting as well as quiet voice and even difficulties swallowing related to facial muscle tones. High impact exercises such as boxing, jumping and some dance routines not only enhance muscular strength but often also include loud shouting or singing which can slow progression of symptoms having to do with muscle weakness.
  4. Enhanced Cognitive Function: Exercise not only benefits physical health but also promotes mental well-being. Studies have demonstrated that regular physical activity can improve cognitive function in individuals with PD. Exercise stimulates the production of endorphins, which act as natural mood enhancers, relieving stress, anxiety, and depression commonly associated with the condition. Additionally, exercise has been shown to support neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to adapt and form new connections, potentially slowing down disease progression.
  5. Social Support and Connection: Participating in group exercise activities, such as classes or support groups designed specifically for individuals with PD, can provide a sense of community and emotional support. Building connections with others who face similar challenges can be empowering, uplifting, and an essential component of overall well-being. Additionally, group exercise sessions offer a supervised and supportive environment where individuals can learn from one another and enhance their exercise experience

So what is the best exercise for PD? The honest answer is the one the individual is able and excited to do consistently and sustainably. Any physical movement is beneficial for PD, especially those that incorporate some high impact movements and sounds. Ideally, those managing PD should find a trainer or fitness center that has knowledge about PD and can make modifications to the fitness routine based on individual ability. St. Jude Wellness Center has offered Parkinson’s Exercise programs for over a decade and is the only hospital-based Medical Fitness certified facility in the state of California, meaning you can trust that all safety and quality components of our programs are held to highest standards and our team can be in communication with your entire care team as well.

By incorporating regular physical activity into consistent weekly routines, individuals with PD can experience improved physical mobility, enhanced motor skills, better cognitive function, and a sense of connection and support. You can find out more about our programs and if it is the right fit for you or a loved one by booking a free health assessment. You can also find more resources in your area by checking out The Parkinson’s Foundation website.