Parkinson’s Disease and the Role of Exercise – Matthew Osborn AEP

Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is one of the most common progressive neurological disorders, as it currently affects 40,000 Australians.  This disease occurs when there is a reduction in the neurotransmitter known as dopamine. Neurotransmitters relay messages between cells in your brain. Specifically, the dopamine transmitter is responsible for controlling movements and allowing movements to be fluid.  With a reduced dopamine production, the body has difficulty moving freely and people tend to struggle to initiate or control their movement.

People with Parkinson’s Disease experience a range of movement dysfunctions. These include tremors, rigidity, reduced movement speed and amplitude, impaired balance and postural instability. This can impact the persons activities of daily life as reduced balance increases their risks of falls. As the individual struggles with initiating movement, and as these movements become more rigid, daily tasks require a higher energy expenditure, resulting in fatigue. Other non-movement issues such as difficulty concentrating, slurred speech, cognitive decline and cardiovascular issues can also impact a person’s quality of life. 

Exercise plays an important part in delaying the progression of the condition and improving the individuals quality of life.  For any exercise program, resistance and aerobic training are fundamental components. Resistance training has shown to improve functional capacity and strength in individuals with PD and aerobic training will contribute to improving fatigue levels, mood, quality of life and improving cardiovascular fitness.  In addition, balance training should be a vital component in any program, as this has been shown to improve postural instability and balance performance, reducing falls risk. For patients with mild to moderate PD, an exercise professional should be present when exercising to ensure safety and correct technique.

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