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Aerobic Exercise Benefits the Brains of People with Parkinson’s Disease

Regular exercise greatly benefits individuals with Parkinson’s Disease.  A recent study examined the effects of aerobic exercise on people with Parkinson’s Disease (PD).  The study included sedentary people aged 30 to 75 who were experiencing mild PD symptoms.  The group was split into two: 1) the first group performed stretching and relaxation exercises, and 2) the second group rode a stationary bicycle.  Both groups exercised 30-45 minutes three times a week in their own homes.

People in both groups were assessed at the beginning of the study and six months later.  To assess progress, the researchers used the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale to measure symptoms.  In addition, a portion of both groups underwent MRI’s.

After six months, the aerobic exercise group experienced an enhanced connectivity in their brain structure (involving the sensorymotor cortex).   The aerobic group experienced less brain shrinkage than the stretching group.  And the aerobic exercise group experienced greater cognitive control.

This study was published in the Annals of Neurology on behalf of the American Neurological Association.

Becky Farley (PhD), a local Tucson expert in the field, also recommends aerobic exercise for people with Parkinson’s Disease.  Dr. Farley explains, “Aerobic exercise not only improves cardiovascular function, but it improves cognition, mood, and motor function.”  According to Farley, exercise also produces physiological benefits that help protect the brain against stress, toxins, and other degenerative processes.

Dr. Farley’s PD-exercise program includes components that emphasize skills training.  Skills training benefits anyone who is attempting to improve their prowess and ability in a particular area, for example, a professional baseball player or a student learning to play the trumpet.  In the case of people with Parkinson’s Disease, skills training helps them regain or improve function.  Farley trains therapists to retrain complex everyday movements.

Becky Farley recommends aerobic exercise for people with Parkinson’s Disease, but she understands that exercise does not come easy to everyone.   Movement and activity of any kind is better than remaining sedentary.   Community/group exercise is available to people with PD.  Farley suggests talking to your care team – doctors and therapists – about beginning new exercise routines.

SYNERGY HomeCare caregivers can assist those with Parkinson’s Disease with their exercises.  They can provide encouragement and create a safe environment.  Caregivers can also help with medication reminders, personal care, and transportation.