Minn. ó Youíve likely heard this before: Exercise is good
for you. It helps your heart, bones, back and more.
one thing you might not have heard: Ongoing aerobic exercise
may slow the progression of Parkinsonís disease, a
progressive disorder of the nervous system.
exercise means vigorous exercise, which makes you hot, sweaty
and tired," says Mayo Clinic neurologist J. Eric Ahlskog.
This could include activity such as walking briskly or using
an elliptical machine.
doesnít mean stretching or balance exercises are not
helpful, Ahlskog notes. Those types of exercises help with
Parkinsonís symptoms, such as rigid muscles, slowed movement
or impaired posture and balance.
help fight the progression of Parkinsonís disease, including
dementia ó one of the most feared long-term outcomes of the
disease ó Ahlskog points to scientific studies that show
aerobic exercise enhances factors that potentially have a
protective effect on the brain. For instance, aerobic exercise
liberates trophic factors ó small proteins in the brain that
behave like fertilizer does when applied to your lawn.
Exercise helps maintain brain connections and counters brain
shrinkage from Parkinsonís disease as well as from brain
aging, says Ahlskog, author of "The New Parkinsonís
Disease Treatment Book," which further explores the
benefits of aerobic exercise.
society, Americans are becoming increasingly sedentary. It is
a particular challenge for people with Parkinsonís disease
to begin and maintain aerobic exercise. "That is where a
physical therapist might serve a crucial role in helping to
counter Parkinsonís disease progression," Ahlskog says.
"The physical therapist could identify the type of
exercise that would appeal to the individual, initiate that
plan and serve as exercise coach."
anyone with or without Parkinsonís disease, an aerobic
exercise routine takes hard work and ongoing commitment,
Ahlskog offers the following tips:
Start slowly: Talk to your doctor before you begin an exercise
program, and then work your way up ó 15 minutes, 30 and
goals: Aim for an average of 45 minutes to an hour of vigorous
activity four times a week.
what you love (or tolerate): If you hate riding a stationary
bike, try a ski machine or stair climber. Take a brisk walk
ó outside, at the mall or on a track.
yourself a little: If youíre walking a track, for example,
try to pass other walkers. If youíre doing repetitive
exercises, slowly increase the number of repetitions.
emphasizes one important component of an exercise program for
Parkinsonís disease: Be certain you have worked with your
doctor to optimize your medication, specifically carbidopa/levodopa.
Once patients with Parkinsonís disease slow down, adequate
carbidopa/levodopa is necessary to optimize quality of life
and facilitate engagement in exercise.