This is a guest post by San Jose personal trainer ,Virginia DeRaddo. Virginia has developed a special exercise class for people with Parkinson’s disease. In this post, she explains what Parkinson’s disease is, and how regular exercise can slow the progress of the disease and manage symptoms.
What is Parkinson's Disease?
Parkinson’s is a progressive disease of the nervous system. It is often described as a neurological disorder which predominantly affects dopamine-producing neurons in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra. As neurons in the brain begin to fire carelessly or unpredictably, the result is people find that they are less able to control their movements. The lack of dopamine isn’t the singular neurotransmitter affected by Parkinson’s disease, but it is considered the most significant.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s include tremor, postural instability, muscular rigidity, poor balance & coordination and slow movement. Symptoms can vary widely from person to person; some people become severely disabled while others only suffer minor symptoms.
New Research Shows Exercise Can Improve Quality of Life
It’s hard to believe that just a few decades ago, people diagnosed with PD were basically told to go home, rest and prepare for the various stages of the disease. They were given levodopa, which is still prescribed today, to help manage their tremors, stiffness and slowness of movement, but that was pretty much it.
Thank goodness we know better now and realize that exercise can slow, stop and even reverse PD!
In 2009, an article concerning exercise and Parkinson’s disease discussed the benefits of pushing yourself beyond what people may self-select as a good training intensity. It’s getting the body to reach a higher training intensity that should be encouraged, as long as your doctor has signed off on this type of exercise.
There isn’t one specific exercise that is suggested, but people with Parkinson’s are often told by their neurologist to try boxing. Why? Well, it’s a full-body workout that easily can be ramped up to a high intensity and that’s where neuroprotection can be achieved.
It’s important to note that studies have shown this type of high-intensity exercise, in order for it to be truly beneficial, must be done at least four times a week. The good news, though, is that you only have to exercise at this higher level for 20-30 minutes in order to get this neuroprotection.
Living with Parkinson’s is certainly not easy, but there’s hope to living a full life – and it all begins with exercise!
European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine, June 2009, by M.A. Hirsch, PH.D, and B.G. Farley. “Exercise and neuroplasticity in persons living with Parkinson’s disease”.
A note from Coach Becky: If you’d like more information on Virginia’s San Jose boxing classes for people with Parkinson’s, please reach out directly to Virginia via text at 202/997-1200 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org