Parkinson’s disease is a progressive movement disorder that affects a person’s gait, balance, and motor control. A prominent symptom of Parkinson’s is muscular tightness and rigidity. Over time the muscles of the person will shorten which affects their gait and they ambulate with shortened, shuffling steps. This type of gait pattern combined with the slower movements and decreased coordination can increase the risk of falling for individuals with Parkinson’s.
Multitasking is also difficult for people with Parkinson’s because they need to focus more on their movements and the environment to maintain safety as their automatic balance reactions are lessened. This can be stressful and can contribute to anxiety and depression, which is already increased due to the diminished levels of dopamine caused by Parkinson’s.
Exercise can improve many of these symptoms. Flexibility training and strengthening can decrease stiffness and make transitional motions easier. Physical activity also releases endorphins which can elevate the mood and counter feelings of anxiety. Another symptom of Parkinson’s is a reduction in the amplitude of movement, so exercises that include exaggerated large muscle motions, such as lunge walking, marching, or shoulder circles, can be helpful.
Activities such as Yoga and Tai Chi can be especially beneficial in managing Parkinson’s because the rhythmic movements can improve balance and coordination, while the use of breathwork and meditation can reduce stress. Addressing the physical and mental component of Parkinson’s is the most effective way to manage symptoms and improve the quality of life.
Our team at Radect is able to help our members find the exercises that are best suited for them no matter what their wellness goals might be.
Rochell Paulson PT, RYT