Nearly 60,000 people in the US are diagnosed with Parkinson's each year and nearly 1,000,000 people have the disease.1 Parkinson's disease (PD) is a disorder of the brain and central nervous system that leads to movement deficits. The substantia nigra, a specific area of the brain that produces a chemical called dopamine is primarily affected. Dopamine is thought to be the chemical that controls movement and the initiation of movement.
Exercise has been shown to be an effective treatment for people with PD. Known benefits of regular exercise include improved control of regular daily movements, improved flexibility, improvements in balance and overall increase in energy levels, amongst main other.1
Many of us struggle to make exercise a regular part of our lives; people living with Parkinson's are no different. 2 I recently read an article titled "Factors Associated with Exercise in Parkinson Disease". The article aimed to identify factors that are associated with why people with Parkinson's Disease exercise regularly or not. After reflecting on the article, I came up with a few take-a-ways that can help you or someone you know with Parkinson's.
This article concluded that disease severity is NOT a primary factor that influences people with PD to exercise. More so, it found self-efficacy to be strongly associated with whether or not people with Parkinson's disease exercise regularly. Self-efficacy is defined as "people's beliefs about their capabilities to produce designated levels of performance, which determine how they feel, think, motivate themselves and behave".2 In other words, how do you picture yourself and how do you feel you are able perform your desired activities. With regards to exercise, the authors defined self-efficacy as "a person's belief in capabilities to overcome personal, social, and environmental barriers to exercising".2 Another way to think of this is do you feel strong enough and confident in yourself enough to be motivated to perform exercise regularly.
When you or someone you love with Parkinson's disease is trying to make the commitment to exercise, it is extremely important that not only their health care providers, but also the people around them are supportive and empower them to be committed to exercise and a healthier lifestyle. Some recommendations are:
1) Find a group of other people that exercise regularly.
2) Start slow and be safe - if you set yourself up for success, you will improve your self-efficacy and may be more willing to exercise regularly.
3) Be sure your health care providers are positive influences in your life. A positive attitude of those who surround you can really make you feel better!
If you have Parkinson's, be conscious of the people you come in contact with, as their attitude can greatly impact your well-being. If you are a friend of a family member of somebody with Parkinson's be supportive, help your friend get motivated, offer to assist them when they are trying to become active. Little changes can go a long way!
Happy Parkinson's Awareness Month! At Sports PT, we have been having a Penny War all month to donate towards research in Parkinson's disease! Stayed tuned for the update on the game and how much money we were able to raise!
Parkinson's Health. http://www.parkinsonshealth.com/About-Parkinson-s-Disease.aspx Accessed on 29 April 2012.
Ellis T. et al. Factors Associated with Exercise Behavior in People with Parkinson Disease. Physical Therapy. 2011: 91:1838-1848.