Expert Voices: Safe, Effective Exercise for People with… — Parkinson’s News Today

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In this episode in our “Expert Voices” series, Parkinson’s News Today asked Becky Farley, PhD, to address some of your questions regarding exercise.


Farley serves as the company’s chief scientist officer and the founder of Parkinson Wellness Recovery (PWR!). She holds a doctorate degree on neuroscience at the University of Arizona, a master of physical therapy in science at the University of North Carolina, and a bachelor’s degree in Physical Therapy at the University of Oklahoma. The author is an published writer on exercises for people suffering from Parkinson’s disease (PD) and has given international medical and public lectures.


In the years since her groundbreaking research about the importance of increasing the training amplitude as a single goal to address bradykinesia she has radically changed the lives of people with PD. Locally, she created an example community center in Arizona to provide continuous access to cutting-edge rehabilitation group exercise and wellness programming. Globally, she’s trained more than 7,000 occupational and physical specialists and therapists to collaborate to develop programs similar to PWR!Gym in Arizona within their respective regions.

Doctor. Becky Farley is dedicated to making life better for people suffering from Parkinson’s disease by exercising. (Photo from Becky Farley, Dr. Becky Farley)

What kind of exercise is suggested for those with Parkinson’s disease and how can they locate an appropriate and safe exercise class?

For a lifetime fitness program, you’ll need an exercise specialist who works with health professionals, has an in-depth understanding of PD and is able to create and execute safe and effective classes to address the specific fitness needs of PD and mobility issues regardless of the severity of the disease. To help people with Parkinson’s] identify these types of exercise professionals which are comparable to the ones used in research trials and clinical trials, they have the Parkinson’s Foundation (PF) in collaboration with the American College of Sports Medicine has recently brought together several groups and thought-leaders in the area of education and exercise to examine current guidelines, research pertaining to PD and give expert opinion in order to come up with a an agreement on the new guidelines for exercising in Parkinson’s disease.

These new exercise guidelines suggest that exercise programs incorporate the usual physical fitness-related health components (aerobics strength, strength as well as flexibility). However, they also incorporate more complicated fitness components such as agility (quick shifts in direction or location) as well as dual-task training that targets more PD-specific mobility training. For each of the components the guidelines offer the recommended dosage and also highlight the motor and nonmotor aspects of PD that might require specific adjustments.

If you combine the dose requirements for each fitness element it is recommended to work out for between 1 and 2 hours a day, 5 to 6 days per week, exercising with moderate-to-high-intensity levels in order to meet daily requirements! If you’re not already an athlete or an exerciser who is habitually this amount of exercise may seem daunting! However, research has shown that even those who do not exercise regularly can be more active and experience the same positive changes to their symptoms as well as the brain (i.e. dopamine circuits get stronger) as regular exercisers. All you need is an exercise program that’s suitable for you! I would suggest you begin with a multi-modal workout program. This kind of program blends the fitness elements into an hour or an hour-and-a-half workout that you could perform three or every week! If this sounds daunting, or you would prefer engaging in other forms of non-exercise exercise, don’t fret!

Guidelines aren’t enough when you don’t have education programs that are able to prepare competent fitness professionals. This is the reason why PF has also created competencies that outline the skills and knowledge required by exercise professionals to develop and implement exercises to PWP that are efficient and suitable for people with different levels of mobility and fitness. There are numerous PF accredited educational programs which are using these capabilities to educate and train fitness professionals, before certificating them for specific exercises. To locate these PWR!Moves PD-specific certified exercise professionals, go to the directory on our site.



Have you got a favorite regimen of exercise or program for those with Parkinson’s disease?


Most people who suffer from PD tend to get better at their exercises however, I’m hesitant to suggest only one kind of exercise program. Additionally, variety and choice is important when you want to train for your entire life! But, when you look at the studies on exercise in animals and humans with PD There are two elements that the most efficient research studies share.

Aerobics: My initial recommendation to patients with PWP is to consult an occupational therapist to develop an aerobic program that is progressive when they are diagnosed. Research has proven that aerobic exercise is not just beneficial to the cardiovascular system, but also enhances mood, cognition and motor performance in people with PWP. Although aerobic exercise is beneficial for your brain, it is beneficial to everyone, if you have the degenerative condition this is more important. The physiological effects triggered through aerobic exercise can help the brain fight environmental toxins, stress along with other degenerative conditions.


Along with mental health, people who exercise regularly are diagnosed with an enhanced dopamine system and less motor symptoms when relative to people who are sedentary. The good news is that when they exercised in a sedentary setting and observed that individuals experience the same positive effects after a three-month session of aerobics with progressive intensity on the treadmill! Recently, aerobics in PWP that is sedentary for 6 months at home on stationary bikes that incorporate “exercise gaming” results in a steady progression of disease through normalizing connectivity in dopamine-related circuits and improved cognitive performance. In another research study, when exercise is combined with training for skills in the same way, the physiological changes associated with aerobic exercise increase the effectiveness of skill training (e.g. running on treadmills). The issue is that the majority of the participants in this study were not on their own! Even those who are used to exercising were given coaching or instant feedback for weeks , and frequently throughout the program to ensure that they were following the protocol. It is important to have an instructor!

Skill-based Training: First you need to establish the goal or goal of your education. What is the issue that’s affecting what you’d like to accomplish better? In the field of sports science and motor study, we talk about this particularity of training. For PWP, cognitive and motor degeneration is the reason for the loss of the complex movements that we perform everyday. Therefore, is it possible to develop a PD-specific workout program focused on retraining complicated everyday movements? If yes, where should you begin?

When I was thinking about these questions I was reminded that children are in training mode all day long. They are practicing fundamental skills and then putting them into effective and meaningful sequences to reach their objectives. Through varied and challenging training conditions, when they are exploring their surroundings Complex movements become automatic, and children start to take on dual-tasks (carrying bottles and picking up, toys or playing in a variety of different positions). As I began to conduct studies with PWP I experienced one of those moments of ah-ha in which I realized PWP were developing with a reversed direction … the ability to perform tasks was declining as they did less multi-tasking, and focused all their attention on simple movements. Then it was clear for me to consider that they had to take a step back to the fundamentals and learn the basic building blocks of functionality, and then put them back to form familiar sequences as well as increasing the complexity and variety of the practice in order to replicate the everyday actions.


We are now teaching occupational therapists as well as physical therapy professionals on how to teach complicated everyday movements (i.e. functional mobility) in therapy to accomplish specific goals (i.e. posture,) or performing tasks (i.e. getting in and out of bed, opening the fridge). Fitness professionals follow the same training program but integrate the functional movement sequences into fitness-related goals and activities.



Where can a person suffering from Parkinson’s disease begin when trying to begin in exercise?


Anyone suffering from PD (sedentary or regular exercisers, whether newly and later diagnosed) should learn about the rehabilitation professionals on the care team. The traditional rehabilitation team includes Physical therapy (PT) as well as occupational therapy (OT) as well as speech language pathology (SLP). Evidence-based evidence suggests the need to refer all of these fields for PWP education as well as assessment and implementation of interventions based on research at any stage of the diseasefrom from the beginning to the advanced. They are experts in the most challenging aspects of daily life for PWP (e.g. functional mobility, self-care swallowing, communication). They can help you understand the benefits of exercising and help you incorporate an increased amount of physical exercise into your everyday routine! It’s not always easy to exercise However, most people love to incorporate more physical activity while doing what they love. Therapy is not a once-in-a-lifetime occasion; the professionals you choose should be focused on your progress throughout your life and that’s why you should choose them wisely! If your doctor doesn’t recommend you to PD-specific PTs OTs or SLPs as soon as you are diagnosed If you’re still not sure, either locate someone who will. Make the most of your resourcesand create your team!


The members of your rehabilitation and exercise group in your community need to work together to ensure you stick to your exercise regimen and are being appropriately mentally and physically challenged and are active following any change in your health condition (i.e. injuries or illness, planned surgery or procedure, mood and motivation). If, for instance, you’re not used to exercising take advantage of members of your health group in order to “prepare” yourself for structured workout programs that range from moderate or high-intensity. This could include developing an individualized conditioning program and consultations regarding solutions to discomfort, fatigue or self-management, or developing goals for therapy that reduce the risk of falling or increase your ability to take part and learn more in a group environment. It is also recommended to observe an entire class prior to beginning so that you know what to expect . You can also arrange for some 1:1 sessions with the instructor in order to master the activities of the class.

If you’re already in good shape then concentrate your efforts on sophisticated and skilled cognitive and motor challenges strategies for stress reduction hand dexterity or pre-emptive postural exercises. Once you have involved in community-based exercise it is possible to see a rehab specialist regularly (every 3 to 6 months) to address problem areas or activities prior to them becoming problematic. affect the quality of your practice or pose a risk to your safety. This is the best time to feel empowered, establish new goals for exercise, and also to review your exercises to get the most from your time and energy.



What suggestions do you offer to someone who is exhausted for days following workout exercises?


Begin by letting instructors know about how you’re feeling . Ask them whether they are able to offer you an exercise class that is less intense or suggest different types of activities such as meditation, qi Gong as well as tai-chi, yoga and table tennis. They may also be able to measure your blood pressure, heart rate and perceived exertion levels during one-on-one sessions to look for any other medical issues, and to determine a more effective dosage of exercises.

If you’re not able to resolve the issue or you’re unable to get an individual session in with your teacher, call your occupational and physical therapy professional to review the situation, identify the triggers, provide you with different strategies for dealing with the situation or suggest an additional health check-up. Most of the time, adjusting the proper amount of exercise or physical activity throughout the day can reduce fatigue.

Keep in mind that all types that involve physical exercise count towards exercising. As an example, you could spend longer hours a day engaged in non-exercise-related activities like leisure activities, yard work cleaning, home repairs food preparation and other activities that are part of everyday life (e.g. dressing or personal hygiene, transporting as well as overground movement) have been proven to lower the risk of bradykinesia. Thus, pacing yourself by “short intervals” that are of a suitable intensity , and increasing your daily participation in complicated activities is one method to lessen your symptoms but without exhaustion.



Does yoga seem suitable and effective for those suffering from Parkinson’s disease?



Yoga is among my top PWP-related community programs, and it is backed by numerous high-quality research studies. It is not necessary to be a lifetime “yogi” to enjoy the benefits of PD. It is crucial to manage stress, which has been proven to diminish the positive effects of exercising in PWP. Do not underestimate the rigidity. It’s a sneaky problem and can cause stooped posture and the loss of shoulder and neck, spine and neck flexibility. It’s not even obvious of the changes until you slip or stumble, feel discomfort, and have difficulty in dressing, mobility and transfers. Yoga can help to strengthen muscles known as “anti-gravity extensors” to improve your posture and stretch the flexors in your overactive muscles that push you forward, decreasing your support base and affecting hip and shoulder mobility. Thirdly, yoga helps develop sensorsimotor focus and attention and whole-body dynamic movements that reduce bradykinesia. These practices can aid you in balancing and correcting your posture. Fourthly, yoga can empower you and will help you overcome negative thoughts that cause anxiety and fear, and a the loss of self-confidence!

If you’ve never tried yoga, begin by working with your physical therapist in order to determine the most beneficial postures during classes and to modify poses to ease joint pain or weak spots. Therapists can make use of videos, apps, or images in therapy to inform you on the things to be aware of when you practice yoga. Therapists may also help with specific exercises as therapy. They can help you improve your posture, and show you how to do it at home. Begin with beginner yoga classes as well as slower-paced yoga classes (Yin, Restorative). If you’ve always been a yoga enthusiast, continue to take the classes that you enjoy, but don’t be afraid to modify your postures or explore other classes to focus on the postures and movements which are the most beneficial for PD (Power, Ashtanga, Iyengar). To know more about the different kinds of yoga, click the link.



If you have a chronic illness it’s difficult to find an excuse to exercise when you feel they’ll never be able to achieve their goals. Do you have any suggestions to offer those suffering from the disease?


Every person can achieve their goals, but it is necessary to work at it incrementally! In reality, there’s every day something that you can improve in. It’s not realistic to expect to reach the objective that is running the marathon over night or within six months, wouldn’t you? Start with something achievable and doable in a short time. Do not blame yourself, remember that your goals could be altered as you grow or your priorities or circumstances change. Don’t worry about it, create a new objective.

Contact your occupational or physical therapy professional to help you establish more real and meaningful goals. While you’re at it make use of consultations and intense sessions of therapy to address mobility issues that could be hindering your participation in exercising in a group or meeting your objectives. You should seek more specific feedback from your instructor or rehab team. There isn’t as specific feedback from group classes like you do in a one-on-one meeting. Some athletes may participate in team sports, however they need individual advice from several coaches!

Remember that not all people are exercisers But the vast majority of people do enjoy leisure activities doing things they enjoy. This is a good thing! Set goals for yourself to do more non-exercise activities. People suffering from PD who are more active everyday activities are less prone to developing serious symptoms. It is because daily activities (e.g. dressing or cooking shopping, playing sports and activities) are physically demanding as well as cognitively, and count as exercising!

Here are some additional ways to stay inspired and positive

  • Engage in enjoyable and exciting activities that you love to undertake or haven’t completed! These kinds of activities test your brain and boost motivation.
  • Consider a buddy system to ensure you can have someone who is accountable to you and work towards their own goals too.
  • Consider joining a virtual support group or live. Or just to a coffee shop with your fitness buddies. Make it a habit.
  • You deserve a treat with something unique Just because!
  • Give something to another person.
  • Join the PD-SELF program and alter the way you feel about yourself and face difficulties. Here is a link the program that is available online for those who are newly diagnosed PD.


Expert Voices is a monthly series featuring a Q&A with experts in the Parkinson’s field on the subject of their choice. These topics and topics are selected from a questionnaire that asks readers what topics they would like to know more about experts. If you’d like us to consider your ideas or questions for consideration for a future installment of this series go here to take the survey.

The Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a information and news website on the condition. It does not offer medical advice or diagnosis, nor does it offer treatment. This information is not intended to serve as an alternative to professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always seek advice from your physician or any other qualified health professional with any questions concerning a medical condition. Do not disregard medical advice from a professional or delay seeking advice due to the information you read on this site.

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