Any kind of exercise is good for people living with Parkinson’s disease, says a new study published in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease.
Although Parkinson’s disease causes the brain to produce less dopamine, which leads to a loss of movement control, the research affirms that exercise can have a long-term impact on improving gait and reducing risk of falling.
To arrive at its conclusion, the review measured the combined outcomes of more than 100 studies conducted over the past 30 years on the effect of exercise in Parkinson’s patients.
It showed that physical activity has clear benefits, specifically for strength, mobility, flexibility and balance.
“I pretty much never see a Parkinson’s disease patient without recommending exercise,” said Michael Okun, medical director of the Parkinson’s Foundation and chairman of neurology at the University of Florida.
“When I started my career, we always said exercise is like a drug for Parkinson’s disease. Now we say it and kind of mean it,” Okun added.
Martine Lauze, first author of the new review who works with Parkinson’s patients, said people should be encouraged to exercise despite their fears.
“A lot of people are afraid to exercise — they don’t know exactly what to do,” said Lauze.
Okun advised patients late in their diagnosis to endeavour to work with a personal trainer but noted that riding a recumbent bicycle is the “safest” form of exercise.
“If you had to go to one-size-fits-all, overall the most useful, safest and most bang for your buck is a recumbent cycle. On a recumbent bicycle, you sit lower to the ground with your legs out in front of you. As little as 10 minutes at a time is beneficial,” he said.
“We never think it’s too late. You can do all sorts of things even if you lose the ability to walk.”
The new review also suggests that more research is needed to determine how exercise might affect learning, mood and depression.
“One of the theories is that exercise releases ‘Miracle-Gro’ for the brain, the same thing that gets released by caffeine,” Okun said.
The researchers recommended water aerobics, swimming, treadmills and walking outdoors as exercises people with Parkinson’s can try.
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