Exercise and Parkinson’s Disease

With Molly Jones - Ability Neuro Physio

Molly is a physiotrherapist with special interest in neurology, helping people with Parkinson’s Disease (PD). Here she tells us about the PD WARRIOR exercise programme

Is it me, or are baby naps getting shorter but more frequent as time goes? Tricky for fitting in a journal review and article writing, but there must be some biological merit for this pattern.

Which leads me nicely onto this month’s core principle – Frequency!

“How often should I do this (exercise)?”

is a question I get asked a lot. Last month, we talked about getting out of your comfort levels and exercising with more effort in order to slow down Parkinson’s symptoms. But one of the other ingredient core principles of PD warrior – frequency – is just as important to get right.

The more the merrier…

Frazzitta et al., (2015) completed a pilot study investigating the effects of intensive rehabilitation treatment in early PD, in order to establish if and how intensive exercise slow down PD progression. The study group completed various supervised exercise sessions and daily living activities, in high intensity (frequency) regimen of 1 hour session, 3x a day (2 in the morning and 1 in the afternoon), 5 days a week, for 4 weeks. Their outcomes were measured using (1) Parkinson’s specific rating scales and (2) self- assessments looking at activities of daily living and motor performance, (3) walking tests, and (4) PD medication dosages. The 4-week cycle was repeated every 12 months over a 2-year period, and all outcomes were reviewed at the end of every cycle. These were compared to a control group of patients who only took medications over the same period of time. All 3 outcomes in the study group, who completed a total of over 55 hours of treatment, significantly improved over time, compared to no improvement in control group. PD medication dosages in study group had a small increase over 2 years, but remained significantly lower than the control group. In addition, some patients in the study group who were only taking one medication continued to do so over the 2 years while most of the patients in control group moved on to taking more than one type of PD medication to manage their growing symptoms.

This study suggests that early intervention using inten-sive, high frequency programs acts as a ‘motor shock’ to the brain and breaks the vicious cycle of PD symp-toms, resetting and restoring motor performance.

There is also suggestion that intensive exercise contributes to dopamine (the main chemical affected by PD) protection and activity in the brain, which could explain the reduced need for oral medication.

In practice…

The findings of the study, along with other related reviews, provide only one answer the pressing question of ‘how often?’ – as often as you can! There are more benefits to be gained from short and frequent sessions than long, occasional ones. For people with Parkinson’s, doing 10 to 15 minutes of moderate intensity exercise daily is better than 1 hour once a week in order to promote motor learning which is crucial for managing PD symptoms. If this frequency is daunting prospect, not to worry, PD Warrior program is designed to develop daily exercise habits, and trained PD Warrior instructors support this element habit formation within the program. If you are curious what this program can do for you (or someone you know), you only have to call.

Right, he’s up and ready to play again!

Till next time…

Frazzitta, G. et al. (2015) Intensive rehabilitation treatment in early Parkinson’s disease: a randomized pilot study with a 2-year follow up. Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair. 29(2) I23-I31. 

Ability Nero Physio is your local PD WARRIOR licenced facility for Swansea, providimng all assessments, introductory sessions, and the signature 10 week Challenge Programme

Visit: www.abilityneurophysio.co.uk

or call: 07415 551 279 to get involved
























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