Recently I participated in a Parkinson’s disease seminar where I was one of the presenters. My portion of the seminar entailed the benefits of exercise for persons with Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s is a neurological disease in which there is no cure and typically affects people over the age of 60 however others can start to show symptoms earlier. Many people with Parkinson’s have lower levels of dopamine in the brain and movement of the body becomes affected. Men are at a greater risk than women for developing this disease which can be caused by genetic or environmental factors. Some of the symptoms include tremors such as shaking a limb while at rest or rubbing the thumb and forefinger as if one is rolling a small pill back and forth. Other symptoms include slowing of movements, poor balance, increase in reaction time, stooped posture, muscle stiffness, shuffling the feet when walking, masked face without emotion and changes with speaking and writing. Autonomic nervous systems symptoms include changes in appetite, digestion, bowel and bladder control, temperature regulation and salivation. These are just a few symptoms to observe and one may not exhibit all of these in the earlier stages however it is best to see a doctor for an evaluation.
The American College of Sports Medicine has conducted research indicating that people with moderate disease symptoms have shown improvements in as little as 1 month on a consistent exercise program. (ACSM’s Exercise Management for Persons with Chronic Diseases and Disabilities, 2nd edition, 2003) It is very important to strengthen the back, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. The chest should be opened up by performing a corner wall stretch allowing for greater posture and breathing. Breathing techniques include deep diaphragmatic breathing in a supine position, yoga, singing and meditation to relax and reduce stress. Too much stress can affect movement of the body, increase depression, fatigue and cause a loss of dopamine. The characteristic pill rolling tremor can be circumvented by squeezing a ball. Working with an experienced trainer or coach and greatly improve the quality of life for a person with this disease. Please contact me for further details at firstname.lastname@example.org.