Exercise is good for people with Parkinson’s. Bhanu Ramaswamy, Co-Chair of the Exercise Hub and lead author of the new Parkinson’s exercise framework talks about why it's so important for professionals to support the people they meet with Parkinson’s to participate in regular exercise, and how new resources from Parkinson’s UK can help reap the benefits of an exercise-informed lifestyle:
"Having worked with people with Parkinson’s for over 2 decades, I know many have a keen interest in exercise and have found it helpful in managing their condition. However, as new evidence emerges, it leads to mixed messages around what to do and even whether to do exercise at all, with some professionals still advocating the old ‘rest is best’ philosophy.
"As we know, inactivity is a major cause of poor health, and more worryingly people with Parkinson’s have been shown to be even less active than the general population. Therefore, it’s clear that participating in regular physical activity - of which exercise is one part - needs to be a priority for people with Parkinson’s. In addition, there’s growing evidence about the possible neuroprotective effects of exercise, which could make it all the more important in slowing the progression of the condition.
"But what should people with Parkinson’s be doing to get the most benefit? We know that Parkinson’s is a complex condition that varies greatly between individuals, especially when we look at age differences at diagnosis, as well as factors related to general health and social circumstances. So a one-size-fits-all approach will not work. It’s important to consider what symptoms people are dealing with, what impact this has on their ability to participate in different activities and how stable their symptoms currently are.
"With this in mind, together with some members of the Exercise Hub, I have led on the development of the new Parkinson’s exercise framework. This outlines what the focus of exercise should be at different stages, and gives ideas of what people with Parkinson’s should be doing. This could vary from more vigorous (higher-intensity) exercise at the gym, to chair based exercises at home. It might be done individually or in a class. It might be targeted to specific symptoms, like balance, or aimed at improving general health and wellbeing. The key is to do what needs to be done at that point in time – and keep doing it!
"Alongside the framework are a range of resources to help bring the guidance to life. There are case studies featuring a range of people with Parkinson’s and how they exercise regularly. There are also animations that can be easily shared on social media to help spread the message. And I’ve compiled a FAQs document for professionals so that you can answer questions that your patients and service users may have.
"This is just the start. In 2018, there will be more case studies and more information on how to address specific symptoms such as problems with posture and flexibility.
"Please share the Parkinson’s exercise framework with your networks. It’s really important that people with Parkinson’s understand that exercise is something to be embraced, and prescribed as a daily dose just as with their medication, plus a great way to take control of their symptoms and their lives."
Dr Bhanu Ramaswamy, OBE, Independent Physiotherapist and Honorary Visiting Fellow, Sheffield Hallam University.