I was diagnosed with PD two years ago. Lately, I’ve been feeling depressed. Any suggestions? Can exercise help?
April B., 58, Los Angeles
I recently wrote an article on the topic of whether or not exercise can help symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease. The article, which confirmed that it can, received far more readership than normal. This is obviously a subject which resonates with the community.
I reread the article myself yesterday, and I realized that while I answered the question of can exercise help with Parkinson’s disease. I did not discuss how exercise helps those with Parkinson’s live happier and healthier lives.
My focus in this article is to not necessarily discuss the medical benefits, but rather shine a light on the ‘feel better’ aspects of exercise.
The question, “how does exercise help” is as important as “can exercise help?.” In this article I discuss some of the specific ways in which exercise, properly performed, can make you feel better.
Impact on depression
One of the most common symptoms associated with Parkinson’s is depression. A recent study by a movement disorder neurologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center found that long term exercise improved depression among patients with Parkinson’s. “Our findings demonstrate that long-term group exercise programs are feasible in the Parkinson’s disease population.
Patients enjoyed exercising, and they stayed with the program that included cardiovascular and resistance training,” said principal investigator Dr. Ariane Park, a movement disorder neurologist at the Madden Center for Parkinson’s Disease and Related Disorders at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center.
The study concluded:
“We recommend exercise to all of our Parkinson’s patients, Park said. “We just want patients to move on a regular basis. Not only will they move better, but they will feel better.”
That’s good news of course, but what is the best kind of exercise to achieve the depression-lifting benefits? Here are some recommendations:
Patrick’s Exercise Recommendations:
To achieve maximum benefit, it is important that the instructors of all of the below are intimately familiar with Parkinson’s Disease.
Probably the single most useful way to quickly improve your overall body strength is through a coordinated strength training program. Find a trainer who understands Parkinson’s and work with him/her at least twice a week to supplement your exercise program. Strength training can also be the foundation of your program as it has so many benefits.
Boxing is a great release and modality of exercise for PD because it involves balance, coordinated movement and both anaerobic and cardiovascular exercise. Make sure you have a good instructor who shows you how to punch because it is a sport which involves explosive impact which travel from the fist on the bag, through the wrist and elbow to the shoulder and spine.
There are Parkinson’s specific boxing classes that started in New York City that are now available in Los Angeles at Rock Steady Boxing. Here is a link to their webpage: rocksteadyboxing.org