April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month and a good time to discuss how exercise can lessen its symptoms and improve quality of life.
Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects the brain, and symptoms can include tremors, problems with walking and balance, and limb rigidity.
More than 10 million people worldwide have it, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation. In the US alone, more than 90,000 people are diagnosed each year, almost all of them after age 50.
The cause is unknown. There is no cure. Treatments include medication and surgery, says the Parkinson’s Foundation. It is not fatal itself. But complications are the 14th leading cause of death in the US, says the Centers for Disease Control.
“Any kind of exercise you do consistently will help improve your Parkinson’s symptoms and overall health,” the Parkinson’s Foundation says. That’s because exercise might slow the progression of the disease.
Boxing is an increasingly common activity for Parkinson’s patients. “Non-contact boxing-inspired classes can reverse, reduce and even delay the symptoms,” says Rock Steady Boxing.
“Boxers condition for optimal agility, speed, muscular endurance, accuracy, balance, hand-eye coordination, footwork and overall strength to defend against and overcome opponents,” Rock Steady says. “Parkinson’s causes a loss in many of the same elements that boxers condition to improve.”
Also, the Parkinson’s Foundation recommends activities such as golf, dancing – since learning steps while moving is good for cognition – swimming, tai chi and yoga.
Talk to your doctor for more information about Parkinson’s.
Holly Kouvo is a personal trainer, functional aging specialist, senior fitness specialist, brain health trainer, writer, and speaker.