Fighting Parkinson’s Disease

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Nanaimo, Physiotherapy

How Can Exercise Help?

Exercise is something everyone should be doing. The more studies that are done on various chronic diseases and conditions that affect both the mind and body, the more it becomes clear that exercise is not only a key in preventing these conditions in the first place, but also in slowing their progression or in some cases reversing it. Parkinson’s Disease is one of those conditions. Exercise has been show to slow, halt, or even reverse the symptoms of the disease. A properly structured exercise program can help individuals in all stages of this disease significantly reduce symptoms.

What are the benefits of exercise?


This is the ability of the brain to reorganize, change and modify itself. What does that have to do with exercise? Well exercise may actually stimulate the brain helping it form new connections and restoring lost ones. For many chronic diseases, such as Parkinson’s this can help slow the progression and possibly lead to modification or reversal. In 2006 Fisher BE et al, published a study that showed improvements in gait and sit to stand measures, the findings suggest that in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease exercise can normalize corticomotor excitability.[i] Also in 2006 Crizzle et al, published a review of research examining if physical exercise is beneficial for persons with Parkinson’s. They concluded that research supports the hypothesis that patients with Parkinson’s cam improve their physical performance and activities of daily living through exercise.[ii]

Cognitive Function

By engaging in an exercise program those with Parkinson’s will see improved cognitive function. 40% of people who have Parkinson’s eventually develop Dementia. Exercise can not only reduce this risk but also help improve memory, planning and multitasking.

Neurons of a human brain


A major challenge for anyone dealing with Parkinson’s can be depression. Everyone feels down from time to time and given the difficulty of a disease such as Parkinson’s it is normal to experience sadness and stress. However, this sadness can become a significant problem when it becomes persistent, sometimes leading to clinical depression. A review of research studies examining the effect of exercise on depression conducted by Lynette L. Craft Ph.D et al, shows that exercise is effective in reducing symptoms of depression.[iv] A major factor in the recovery/management of both injuries and chronic conditions is mood. Studies have shown that how we feel can affect how well treatment/intervention works. Aside from just recovery, depression can strain personal relationships, this adds more stress/sadness to all people involved. Exercise can you help fight the symptoms of depression and help fight the symptoms of Parkinson’s.

Balance & Mobility

Exercise plays a crucial role in enhancing quality of life for everyone but for people dealing with Parkinson’s disease it is critical for its ability to help maintain balance, mobility and daily living activities. Falls are a major concern with Parkinson’s as the loss of balance, reflexes and decreased reaction time increase the risk of a fall that may lead to serious injury. Research has shown that exercise can improve gait, balance, tremor, flexibility, grip strength and motor coordination. By improving balance and mobility one can reduce the risks of falls and some other complications of Parkinson’s. By avoiding the complications one can avoid some things that make Parkinson’s worse.[iii]

All in all there are a number of benefits to exercise for those with Parkinson’s. The earlier you start the better as research is showing that exercise may protect the dopamine producing nerve cells that are lost in Parkinson’s, enabling them to continue functioning and survive for a longer period of time. This can potentially slow down the progression of the condition, which unfortunately no other current treatments are able to do. Beyond that, exercise will help maintain ones abilities, balance, posture and enhance overall health.

Nanaimo Physiotherapy, Nanaimo Massage Therapy

What Type of Exercise Is Right?

More and more studies are showing that the type of exercise one does is significant. Certain forms of exercise at certain intensities have been shown to be more effective than other forms of exercise. Often the form of exercise people choose is simply not enough to drive the neuroplastic changes that are needed. In turn these people often continue to get worse. Performing an adequate exercise program will help stall or stop the progression of the disease or even reverse it. Not engaging in exercise, a person WILL see their symptoms progress, likely at a faster rate. Hence, the earlier you begin your program the better off you will be.

How Do I Get Started?

Parkinson’s clients are often referred to Physiotherapy with the goal of improving flexibility, posture and balance/stability. However, not all Physiotherapists specialize in working with Patients with these types of conditions. Time is of the essence and you should be looking to find a Physiotherapist that is experienced and who has focused their education on helping patients with neurological conditions.

It is important to be proactive and to get in touch with a qualified Physiotherapist at the time of diagnosis. Working with a qualified professional from the beginning to counteract and address things before they become an issue will improve a patient’s outcome. The therapist will create a tailored exercise program following an assessment based specifically on their needs.

At Pure Body Balance we are lucky to have Natasha Wilch who works exclusively with Patients recovering/managing neurological conditions. She has many years of experience in this field and can help those in both the early and later stages of Parkinson’s. Her goal is to ALWAYS work WITH the client in achieving their goals and maximizing their potential. If you would like Natasha to help you establish an exercise program contact us and set up an appointment.

If you are interested in learning more about Parkinson’s disease and the latest research regarding treatment of this condition with exercise visit

To your health,

Nanaimo Personal Trainer, Keegan Marshall



Keegan Marshall CPT, CES

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