Archives January 2016

The Importance of Exercise in Combating Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

People Exercise - Combating Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

Conventional Ways to Confront Parkinson’s Symptoms

Perhaps one of the most recognizable symptoms of Parkinson’s disease is impaired mobility. Joints that used to be flexible and muscles that could easily lift heavy weights become stiff and no longer function properly. Mundane actions such as walking or turning over in bed are difficult to initiate and are performed particularly slowly, and an unsteady balance makes it difficult to stand up and walk while looking forward.

Conventional treatments for Parkinson’s disease usually involve medication, surgery, or experimental trials. But there are also numerous alternative therapies out there which involve exercise and are directly aimed at maintaining physical strength, flexibility and mobility. Indeed, the ability to move as well as the confidence to do so can be improved by practicing movement.

More than Working Out

Physical activity in its most basic form is a great part of everyday life. Routine activities include housework and gardening, driving a car, taking care of one’s children, running errands, and more — all of which require energy and mobility. For Parkinson’s patients, maintaining such daily routines, even on a basic level, requires practice movement and flexibility. Exercise helps not only improve bodily functions, but also sustain the energy and vitality needed to stay actively immersed in the everyday.


Types of Exercise

The most commonly known form of exercise for patients struggling with mobility issues is physiotherapy. However, for Parkinson’s patients, activities that are aerobic and learning-based seems to be the most efficient. Exercise that challenges the individual to constantly keep track of and change tempo, activity and direction has numerous benefits. It enhances heart and lungs function, promotes good posture, and trunk rotation. For this any kind of rhythmic and symmetrical movements, such as different dance forms, are highly beneficial. Other activities, such as Yoga and Tai Chi, can also prove helpful, with their potential for increasing flexibility, strengthening core and periphery muscles, and improving balance. Because positions are shifted frequently, concentration and an ability to adapt are required, and are improved as progress is made. Finally, such activities can be very easily adapted to the pace and level of the person exercising, including Parkinson’s disease patients.

The Wonders of Dance

The effect that dancing has on delaying and coping with the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are remarkable. Those who discovered this form of treatment, such as Rafi Eldor, follow it with dedication and report incredible improvements in their mental state and ability to function on a daily basis. Since dancing is performed to music and is a sociable activity, it does not only help facilitate and cue movement, but offers pure fun. It can dramatically improve gait and balance, which helps Parkinson’s patients decrease incidents of falling and increase confidence in walking while looking straight ahead. Since the condition can make people struggle with doing two things at once or shifting positions, dancing provides them with the opportunity to practice adjustments of mind and body as well as reciprocal movements — especially given the wide range of genres to be explored, from Tango to Waltz to Cha Cha, which require the coordination of a vast variety of movements.

Finally, dancing has not only physical but also psychological benefits. The joy of movement, the lively music, the elegance of the gestures, and the social contact with the other dancers, all play a role in reviving those who feel Parkinson’s disease has drained their emotional and physical energy.

The Social Benefits of Dance

dancing couple

Dancing is a great way to meet new people, all of whom are eager to see new faces on the dance floor. Ballroom dancing, with its different forms in particular, offers an extremely friendly environment, where everyone is encouraged to join in the dancing. Seeing others overcome shyness and awkwardness by dancing is a great ice-breaker, and creates a much more at-ease feeling among the group. The one on one dances such as the Waltz or the Latin styles are known for creating and strengthening bonds between the participating partners. This is because when dancing, each person has to be aware of the other’s movements, abilities, and intentions, which encourages a kind of silent and intuitive communication. dancing couple

As for Parkinson’s disease patients, social and physical worlds have a tendency to shrink as the condition progresses, to the point where social isolation becomes a burden. The first benefit of dancing, then, is that it gets you out of the house and into the social sphere. To take the first step in a room filled with people, all of whom came to dance, be together and have fun, is already a great achievement. Indeed, a very important aspect of life with Parkinson’s which dance improves is lack of confidence. Parkinson’s patients often report feeling socially awkward because they feel their symptoms draw attention and they become extremely self-conscious about appearing in public. Not only does dancing provide a supporting environment in which to overcome physical difficulties and limitations while having fun, it also helps a person regain his or her self-confidence. Dancing works on posture, gait, balance, elegance, and much more. All of these and the improvement from class to class help dancers regain the sense of familiarity and confidence in their body, and consequently to feel more at ease in public. And as for feeling awkward among the dancing group itself: the sweeping music and the need to concentrate on the dance moves simply do not leave any room for one to be self-conscious, but still just enough to enjoy the moment.

Furthermore, the physical contact that is made while dancing is also significant, particularly for Parkinson’s patients. The sense of alienation and lack of control over one’s body is common to many people, but is extreme in those who live with the degenerative condition. Such people might become increasingly uncomfortable with their body and consequently withdraw emotionally from others. However, the physical touch that is experienced when dancing helps one overcome inhibitions, relax, and potentially even connect the two dancing partners on an emotional level. Moreover, turning physical exercise into such an enjoyable and sociable experience helps reduce stress and tension, which can often exacerbate Parkinson’s symptoms. Once the physical activity turns into a social one, it soon puts a smile on the participant’s face, and helps make life with Parkinson’s just a little bit easier.