The Davis Phinney Foundation, Boulder, Colo, a nonprofit foundation that aims to provide information and tools for people with Parkinson’s disease, today offers a new exercise DVD featuring a panel of movement disorder experts in the fields of physical therapy and exercise physiology who answer common questions about exercise and Parkinson’s disease, discuss research related to exercise, and offer tips and tools to reinforce the importance of exercise as a core strategy for living well at all ages and stages of Parkinson’s.

The DVD is titled Exercise and Parkinson’s: Questions and Answers from the Experts,

Surveys conducted by the Foundation show that a communications gap often exists between people with Parkinson’s disease and their treatment providers concerning exercise.

Among the findings:

  • While 81% of people with Parkinson’s surveyed said they believed that exercise can slow disease progression, less than half (40%) reported discussing their exercise with their physician within 6 months of diagnosis.
  • Almost one in five (19%) said they never discussed exercise with their physician.
  • In those cases where exercise has been part of the discussion, patients leave with many unanswered questions regarding the types and frequency of exercise that will be most helpful for them.

The DVD features leading movement disorder experts in the field of physical therapy and exercise–Terry Ellis, PT, PhD, NCS, Boston University; Mark A. Hirsch, PhD, Carolinas Rehabilitation/Carolinas Medical Center; Matthew Ford, PT, MA, PhD, The University of Alabama at Birmingham; and Lee Dibble, PT, PhD, ATC, University of Utah–and people living with Parkinson’s disease who demonstrate the importance of exercise and share insight on incorporating exercise into a Parkinson’s disease treatment plan.

The DVD is provided free for people enrolled in the Foundation’s Every Victory Counts™ self-care management program, which connects people with Parkinson’s disease to  educational materials, including an interactive manual that aims to empower people to live well with the disease and take a more active role in managing their care.

"Exercise should be part of the standard of care for Parkinson’s disease as the growing body of scientific evidence strongly demonstrates the effectiveness of exercise as an essential tool for maintaining balance, mobility, and daily quality of life, not to mention the possibility that exercise might actually protect nerve cells and slow disease progression in the brain," said Ellis, in a statement.

Rob Biddle, 54, who is featured in the DVD training with Hirsch, follows an exercise plan that consists of spin classes, resistance training, treadmill walking, and balance training at his local YMCA. "I am committed to this exercise routine to address my Parkinson’s symptoms and now feel better than when I was 30 years old," Biddle said. "I am convinced that if I continue exercising, it will help me maintain my strength and balance longer. I would encourage anyone with Parkinson’s disease to begin an exercise program."

The Foundation has also developed the Top 10 Tips guide for exercising with Parkinson’s and the research that supports them. Among the tips:

  • Exercise is medicine. Exercise has been proven to build a healthier heart, lungs, and muscles, boost metabolism, prevent diabetes, and reduces disability. New research suggests that exercise may even provide neuroprotection–slowing the progression of Parkinson’s in the brain by safeguarding vulnerable nerve cells from damage and degeneration.
  • Have fun. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t stick with it. Do something you like. Dance, yoga, tai chi, cycling, and strength exercises have all been shown to help with physical and cognitive symptoms of Parkinson’s. Also try exercising with a group. Research shows that people stick with exercise when there is encouragement and an expectation for you to show up.

Amy Howard, executive director of the Foundation. noted that research is supporting the experience of people living with Parkinson’s; namely, that if people who have Parkinson’s exercise, they will feel better and will positively affect many of the symptoms of Parkinson’s, such as movement, depression and sleep.

[Source: Davis Phinney Foundation]