Marios Politis: The Importance of Exercise for Individuals with Parkinson’s Disease

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Professor Marios Politis is a Professor of Neurology and Neuroimaging and a Consultant Neurologist.

Professor Politis has undertaken extensive research investigating the pathophysiology of Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders. This article will review recent studies into the impact of exercise for people with Parkinson’s disease.

Exercise is a vital component in healthy living for everyone. However, for people with Parkinson’s disease it is particularly important, a new study suggests.

Research shows that physical activity not only helps to maintain and improve flexibility, balance and mobility but can also ease non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, such as constipation or depression.

The Parkinson’s Outcomes Project reveals that people with Parkinson’s disease who begin exercising for a minimum of 2½ hours per week earlier in their disease experience a slower decline in quality of life compared with those who start later. Establishing exercise habits early after diagnosis is an essential component in overall management of the condition, the findings suggest.

Experts recommend incorporating the following key components into an exercise regime to help manage Parkinson’s symptoms:

  • Strength training
  • Aerobic activity
  • Flexibility
  • Agility, balance and multitasking

Multiple studies highlight the power of exercise in treating Parkinson’s disease. The benefits of taking part in regular physical activity for people with the condition include:

  • Managing Symptoms: Some Parkinson’s symptoms, such as constipation and balance issues, are particularly helped by exercise. Physical activity also helps to build strength, which is linked to improved brain health as well as lessening other symptoms.
  • Slowing or Preventing Disease Progression: Studies suggest that exercise helps to reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s as well as slowing the disease’s progression. While scientists do not know exactly why this is, exercise appears to help brain cells stay healthy.
  • Avoiding Isolation: Parkinson’s disease can be an isolating illness. Many people find that exercising with family or friends, or joining a class or group, provides them with a fulfilling social activity, helping them to stay active in the community – which in turn helps to lower stress and alleviates symptoms of the condition.

In terms of finding the ‘right’ kind of exercise to help treat Parkinson’s disease, this varies hugely from one person to the next. In short, the best exercise is the one that appeals to the individual the most and that their care team approves, as they are most likely to stick with it.

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