The research is pretty clear that to manage your Parkinson’s well, exercise is non-negotiable. Ask any PD Warrior and they will tell you the healthiest and happiest people with Parkinson’s tend to be the ones who have higher levels of activity.
Two recently published studies worth mentioning at this time of year are the Systematic Review (SR) update by Gamborg and colleagues and the paper by Johannson and colleagues.
Systematic reviews are interesting because they critically appraise all relevant research on the topic. Given this particular SR only looked at randomised clinical trials, we can be pretty confident of the summary. This SR looked at the results of three different types of exercise and their expected outcomes across multiple different papers; resistance training, endurance training and other intensive exercise modalities (OITM). This paper was able to show that resistance training had a positive impact on muscle strength, functional capacity and quality of life. Endurance training had a positive impact on cardiorespiratory fitness, functional capacity and a potentially positive impact on both “on and off” motor function. The paper found that although the results were stronger for the first two exercise groups and ‘other’ is a catch-all group, the OITM exercise category was also found to be safe, feasible and a beneficial adjunct.
The second paper is very exciting as it is one of the first to show structural changes in the Parkinson’s brain as a result of exercise. The authors of this study were able to demonstrate that aerobic exercise is associated with enhanced connectivity within the brain (re-wiring) and reduced global brain atrophy (shrinkage). This paper shows what has long been thought… that exercise drives change at the cellular level and it is proportional to the fitness improvements.
So what does this mean for you? Pick your activity and get out there and get moving! The 10 Week Challenge is an excellent starting point. At the end of the challenge you should expect to be in peak physical and cognitive condition and able to resume or start an activity that will keep you moving long term. New year, new you!
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