Imagine that one day you just started losing control of your muscles. You wanted to pick something up, but the lines of communication between your brain and your hand were down. Or you’re sitting comfortably and all of a sudden you find yourself shaking or twitching uncontrollably, unable to stop.
This is how roughly one million Americans and another estimated six million people worldwide are living daily. These people have Parkinson’s disease, the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s.
Unfortunately, as the population ages, these numbers are going to go up…and there is no cure.
But because there is no cure, this doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to prevent the disease’s onset or fight back against its symptoms if you’ve already been diagnosed. The key is to adopt the mentality that the power lies in your hands, not with the disease.
Exercise, resistance training, and aerobic programs have proven to be effective in battling Parkinson’s symptoms. As one ages, it’s important to combat muscle degeneration (sarcopenia). This is of increased importance if you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. The strengthening of the muscle itself while focusing on a mind-to-muscle connection has been proven to offer benefits.
I was recently reading a study that showed the benefits of light resistance training and two personal accounts of Parkinson’s patients who were training at up to 60% of their maximum output. Both patients were in their 70s. They claimed that the resistance training program greatly improved mobility, engaged their extremities, built strength, and allowed them to feel more control over their bodies. One of the patients, Bob, said that he prefers his full-body workouts to physical therapy because, instead of focusing on one area, his workouts engage his entire body.
One of the keys, say both patients, is not to be afraid of walking (or rolling, if you’re in a wheelchair) into a gym. That’s the reason why most people never start a workout routine or make it into the gym more than a couple of times. And for Parkinson’s patients, public outings may seem even more daunting. However, you’re never too old to start; you just have to accept the fact that there is a learning curve, but once you learn what to do, you’re bound to see improvements.
But before you head to the gym, it’s important to remember that you do have a medical condition and your workouts should be tailored with that in mind. There are certain movements to focus on and specialized training techniques to give you maximum benefit and protect you from harm. Before adopting a routine, talk to your doctor about what you can and can’t do, and consider having a personal trainer show you the ropes before training on your own.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Corcos, D., et al., “A two-year randomized controlled trial of progressive resistance exercise for Parkinson’s Disease,” Movement Disorders Clinical Practice August 2013; 28(9): 1,230–40.
Singh, S., “Client Success Story: Strength Training With Parkinson’s (Again!),” Brinkzone web site, May 17, 2014; http://www.brinkzone.com/tricks-for-living-longer/client-success-story-strength-training-with-parkinsons-again.
Singh, S., “Strength Training with Parkinson’s” Brinkzone web site, May 8, 2013; http://www.brinkzone.com/general-health/strength-training-with-parkinsons/, last accessed May 29, 2014.
University of California, “Exercise and Physical Therapy,” Parkinson’s Disease Clinic and Research Center web site; http://pdcenter.neurology.ucsf.edu/patients-guide/exercise-and-physical-therapy, last accessed May 29, 2014.