Patients living with Parkinson’s disease may experience tremors, slower movement, and issues with balance that can inhibit their ability to exercise and keep their body strong. This has proven to be an issue, as without regular exercise that includes some measure of strength training, these symptoms can worsen as muscle mass decreases, making moving progressively slower and more difficult.
This slowing of movement is referred to as bradykinesia and is what causes many Parkinson’s patients to have a slow, shuffling gait. Regular exercise can help improve the movement of those with Parkinson’s, as well as their balance and gait.
Before beginning any exercise regimen, patients should consult with their doctors to ensure they are attempting a safe level of movement for their fitness level. Continue reading to learn more about the benefits of strength training with Parkinson’s disease.
Balance: A 2003 study found that including strength training in patients’ existing balance training can improve their stability when compared to balance training alone. Participants who completed resistance training with the focus on knee extensors and flexors in combination with basic balance training had an easier time keeping their balance for a longer period of time. They also gained strength and muscle mass.
Gait: The shuffling gait that is common among Parkinson’s patients is caused by bradykinesia, a difficulty in adjusting the body’s movements. This slow gait was improved with the addition of strength training twice weekly over the course of eight weeks. Patients were able to walk faster, take longer strides, and stand straighter than they could before beginning the exercise regimen.
Movement: Mobility issues associated with Parkinson’s can be caused by weakening muscles and lack of bodily strength. A 2006 study showed that patients who added high-force quadriceps contractions three times a week over a 12-week period had more muscle volume and force—which aided them in being better able to climb stairs and move around with ease—in comparison to those who followed a standard Parkinson’s exercise routine.
Adding strength training into a regular exercise routine for individuals with Parkinson’s disease may be able to help with better balance, gait, and mobility. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends including strength training into your fitness regimen two to three times a week per muscle group, though it is best to seek the advice of your doctor, as well as a certified personal trainer, in order to come up with a frequency and intensity that fits your personal needs.