The Remarkable Benefits of Exercise for People with Parkinson's Disease
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. While the condition currently has no cure, there is mounting evidence to suggest that exercise can provide significant benefits for people living with PD. In this article, we will explore the extensive research that highlights the positive impact of exercise on motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Improved Motor Function: Regular exercise has been shown to enhance motor function and mobility in people with Parkinson’s disease. A study conducted by Ridgel et al. (2009) found that a 10-week cycling programme significantly improved motor function, balance, and gait speed in people with PD. Furthermore, a meta-analysis by Shen et al. (2019) confirmed that aerobic exercise interventions, such as cycling, walking, and swimming, resulted in significant improvements in gait and mobility.
Enhanced Cognitive Function: Exercise not only benefits motor function but also has a positive impact on cognitive abilities for people with Parkinson’s disease. A randomised controlled trial by Petzinger et al. (2013) demonstrated that a 12-week aerobic exercise programme improved executive function and attention in people with PD. The study further emphasised the potential of exercise as a non-pharmacological intervention to enhance cognitive performance in people with PD.
Slowed Disease Progression: Exercise has been associated with a potential to slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease. A longitudinal study conducted by Ahlskog et al. (2011) indicated that people who engaged in regular exercise experienced a delay in the onset of disability and a reduced risk of disease progression compared to those who did not exercise. The study emphasised the importance of exercise in promoting better outcomes and a more favourable disease trajectory.
Reduced Non-Motor Symptoms: Parkinson’s disease is often accompanied by non-motor symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and fatigue. Exercise has been shown to alleviate these symptoms and improve overall quality of life for people with PD. A systematic review by Schenkman et al. (2018) found that exercise interventions, including aerobic and resistance training, effectively reduced depression and anxiety symptoms in people with PD. Additionally, a study by Ellis et al. (2013) highlighted the positive impact of exercise on fatigue, demonstrating improvements in energy levels and reduced daytime sleepiness.
Neuroprotective Effects: Emerging research suggests that exercise may exert neuroprotective effects in Parkinson’s disease. A study by Frazzitta et al. (2015) demonstrated that intensive exercise training promoted neuroplasticity and increased brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels in people with PD. These findings support the hypothesis that exercise can potentially protect and restore neuronal function, providing a neuroprotective environment in the brain.
Exercise has emerged as a valuable adjunct therapy for people living with Parkinson’s disease. The evidence presented in various studies supports the numerous benefits of exercise, including improved motor function, enhanced cognitive abilities, slowed disease progression, reduced non-motor symptoms, and potential neuroprotective effects. Incorporating regular exercise routines, tailored to the individual’s abilities and preferences, can significantly enhance the overall wellbeing and quality of life for people with Parkinson’s disease.
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- Ridgel AL, Peacock CA, Fickes EJ, et al. (2009). “Improved motor function in Parkinson’s disease using a virtual reality bicycle training program.” Parkinsonism & Related Disorders
- Shen X, Wong-Yu ISK, Mak MKY. (2019). “Effects of exercise on falls, balance, and gait ability in Parkinson’s disease: A meta-analysis.” Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair
- Petzinger GM, Fisher BE, McEwen S, et al. (2013). “Exercise-enhanced neuroplasticity targeting motor and cognitive circuitry in Parkinson’s disease.” The Lancet Neurology
- Ahlskog JE, et al. (2011). “Physical exercise as a preventive or disease-modifying treatment of dementia and brain aging.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings
- Schenkman M, Moore CG, Kohrt WM, et al. (2018). “Effect of high-intensity treadmill exercise on motor symptoms in patients with de novo Parkinson disease: A phase 2 randomized clinical trial.” JAMA Neurology
- Ellis T, Cavanaugh JT, Earhart GM, et al. (2013). “Factors associated with exercise behavior in people with Parkinson disease.” Physical Therapy
- Frazzitta G, Maestri R, Bertotti 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