Parkinsons Disease (PD) is a condition that affects the nervous system, causing progressive deterioration of smooth muscular control, movement and function. It is the second most common neurological disorder in Australia, behind Dementia and effects approximately 100,000 Australians.
PD occurs when the brain fails to produce adequate amounts of Dopamine, resulting in a deterioration of smooth muscular control and movement. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for smooth muscular control and movement and is produced within the brain. A neurotransmitter is a chemical that helps to relay messages from cell to cell.
PD is characterised as a ‘movement disorder’ and symptoms include uncontrollable tremors, lack of coordination, rigid muscles, slowing of movement and an altered gait. Parkinsons develops at different rates for each individual, however symptoms generally progress slowly and gradually over time. It is important to note that people can experience many different types or degrees of symptoms. A shake or tremor is usually one of the first signs, however the disease is very individual. Although PD is defined as a movement disorder, there are many non-movement symptoms that develop over time including sleep disturbance, digestive issues and a loss of smell.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for PD however it can be well treated to allow the person to lead a fulfilled life. One treatment for Parkinsons includes exercise! Exercise is a vital component to a treatment management plan, as it helps to maintain and develop balance, mobility and daily function. The Parkinsons Outcome Program has shown that people with PD who start exercising earlier and a minimum of 2.5 hours a week, experience a slowed decline in quality of life compared to those who start later.
There is no magic program for those with PD, an exercise program should always be individualised to the person. The program should include components of balance, mobility, flexibility, aerobic and resistance training to help slow the progression of this condition and minimise symptoms.
The first thing to consider when commencing exercise is to make sure you are cleared with your Neurologist and treating doctor to start an exercise program. From there it is important to find an exercise professional who can prescribe the correct program and exercises. The most important thing is to find something you enjoy so you can form some great exercise habits and continue into the long term!