When an individual has Parkinson’s disease, brain cells that produce the chemical transmitter dopamine are damaged or lost. Dopamine is responsible for sending messages between nerve cells, so when this is damaged, motor function can become impaired. As a result, the individual may experience tremors, stiffness, and difficulty initiating movement. Specifically, movements will slow down and balance and walking may become impaired. Using utensils to eat and/or handwriting may also become difficult.
While there is no cure, there are several medications that can help manage the disease. A physician can help determine the best course of treatment.
But with or without medications, our brains have an amazing way of compensating where other structures can take over for what is lost, this is called neuroplasticity. There are extensive studies that show exercise, especially intensive and cardiovascular exercise, promotes neuroplasticity. There is one specific study, the largest-ever clinical study of Parkinson’s disease, which concluded that those who engaged in at least 2.5 hours a week of exercise improved their functional abilities and had a better quality of life than those who did not exercise at all.
Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital offers an exercise program for Parkinson’s patients called Move to Improve. The class is taught by a licensed recreation therapist or physical therapist who have been certified in Parkinson’s specific exercise. The class is one hour long, one day per week and incorporates strength training, cardiovascular exercise, balance training, stretching and gait training to work on quality of walking. The class is available for participants of all ability levels. Patients enrolled in the class may experience improvement in mobility, posture, balance, handwriting, speech volume and reduction in daily functional challenges. The classes are also a source of fun, social camaraderie and hope.
Move to Improve is held every Friday from 1-2 p.m. in the Boardroom at Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital. For more information or to register, call 330-841-3845.
Learn more about Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital on their website.