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How exercise benefits those living with Parkinson's Disease

Written by Benjamin Sharkey, Exercise Physiologist with integratedliving

Parkinson’s Disease can impact many aspects of a person’s life. We find out how a focus on specific exercises can assist those impacted.

 

We asked one of our exercise physiologists to explain the advantages exercises can have, and what’s on offer to those living with Parkinson’s at our Wellness Centres (also referred to by our clients as the "Wellness Gym"), in person and virtually. Here's what Ben Sharkey had to say.

What should we know about Parkinson’s Disease, and how exercise can help those affected? 

 

Parkinson's Disease is a progressively neurodegenerative disease that gradually impairs functional capacity with muscle rigidity, postural instability and declining balance as well as difficulty initiating motor movements.

Long term, it also affects speech and cognitive capacity.

Pharmaceutical intervention is the most common way to treat Parkinson’s Disease, but exercise has its place in assisting to maintain physical function and independence. 

Why is exercise helpful for people living with Parkinson’s? 

Regular exercise is beneficial in delaying the progression of secondary effects of Parkinson’s Disease on musculoskeletal and respiratory systems.

Evidence shows exercise is beneficial in improving walking or gait, aerobic capacity and quality of life in people living with Parkinson’s. 

Are there exercises specific to those who live with Parkinson’s Disease, and how do they help? 

Yes, there are. Parkinson’s-specific exercises have the main goals of improving gait or walking, balance, joint range of motion and mobility, and muscular power to maintain capacity to complete the activities of daily living. Functional exercises are important to simulate daily tasks such as standing from a chair or walking up or down stairs because these will help those with Parkinson’s to maintain their independence as long as possible. 

How does your team support people living with Parkinson’s?  

Our main goal with clients living with Parkinson’s Disease is to promote independence and maintain functional capacity as long as possible.

Parkinson’s-specific exercises tend to focus on balance and gait, joint range of motion and muscle power. 

How often do you come across a client with Parkinson's in our Wellness Centres? 

I would say daily.

Out of our 400 current clients at our Ballina Wellness Centre, I would estimate roughly five per cent of our clients have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. 

Are people living with Parkinson's able to join in classes of all levels and abilities? 

All clients that attend our centres undergo an Initial Assessment by an exercise physiologist where the clients are screened. From this, we can categorise clients as low, moderate or high risk based on their physical capacity. Due to the degenerative nature of Parkinson’s, some exercises may be considered unsafe for some clients. However, we are able to adapt and modify exercises where possible to make our centres as accessible and safe as possible. 

What else does your Wellness team offer for people living with Parkinson’s? 

In Ballina, we have a group class designed for those living with neurological conditions. Parkinson's Disease is a very common condition of those attending the class. During these sessions, we are able to better focus on ballistic or muscle power movements, balance and joint mobility.

Personal Trainer Melanie and I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing the clients complete the exercises with more confidence, supporting each other and laughing during their sessions. 

We can connect clients with physiotherapy for seniors to complement our Wellness Centre exercise classes. 

Find out more about our exercise services