Why Movement Matters for Parkinson’s Disease

By Libby Barrett, Certified Personal Trainer and Senior Fitness Specialist

Staying active and moving is one of the most important things one can do to maintain physical and mental health and having Parkinson’s Disease is no exception. Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a progressive disease that affects the nervous system and therefore motor functions, by disrupting the communication networks in the body. Because there is no cure for PD, movement is essential for those living with a diagnosis to maintain quality of life.

Common motor symptoms include slow movement, stiff muscles and/or joints, loss of balance and tremors. There are also non-motor symptoms of PD and can include depression, anxiety, apathy, fatigue and sleep problems. To help combat and slow the progression of these symptoms, a regular exercise routine is recommended.

Exercise programming should include flexibility, strength training and cardiovascular components, plus balance and vocal work exercises. There are no specific exercises for PD, but boxing and indoor cycling classes have shown to be especially beneficial. Numerous studies show these formats can help improve balance, posture, gait and strength, as well as improve coordination, cognition and reaction time. Training in a group setting can also increase socialization and one’s sense of belonging to a community, which can improve mental health.

At Club Greenwood, Certified Personal Trainer and Senior Fitness Specialist, Libby Barrett has a passion for helping this specific demographic as she saw her grandmother suffer from PD. She has implemented fun and engaging new programs called Punch Out Parkinson’s and Pedal Out Parkinson’s. Both programs work to strengthen muscles, improve balance and challenge the brain, thus slowing the progression of the disease’s symptoms. The programs also provide a safe place for listening, support and community. We have had members and non-members join our programs. Caretakers are welcome, plus those living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Although they are very different diseases, PD, MS and ALS all benefit from exercise and have similar symptom management approaches. Our small group training programs are also very individualized to the participant, so everyone gets a well-rounded workout tailored for their own progression and growth. Programs run for four weeks each month. You can take a series once or repeat them as many times as you like.

Libby created these programs out of her desire to make a difference for people with those living with PD. It is a progressive disease, but research evidence shows we can slow the physical effects by exercising plus combat mental symptoms like apathy, isolation and fear. Socializing, connecting with others who understand their situation, plus gaining confidence and strength can greatly improve one’s mental outlook, read more. Whether you are newly diagnosed with PD, or have been living with it for years, it is never too late to start exercising. It is an invaluable tool to help combat the disease’s symptoms. Remember to check with your doctor before starting an exercise program and don’t forget to have fun!

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