More than 10 years ago, my life changed forever. That’s when I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease – and, as I’ve told you before, I’ve been constantly on the hunt for new breakthroughs that are safe, natural, and effective.
I’ve been able to keep my Parkinson’s from advancing for a decade, and it’s thanks to these new breakthroughs that I’ve been discovering and sharing with patients just like you.
And one of the most exciting breakthroughs in Parkinson’s today has to do with exercise and stabilizing our muscles.
You may think that Parkinson’s is a condition of too much movement – you know, those uncontrollable tremors – but actually, INACTIVITY is a big problem with PD patients. If you have Parkinson’s, exercising might be the LAST thing you want to do when you’re feeling fatigued and… well, impaired… but getting up and making some deliberate, rigorous movements might be just the thing to help you regain some control over your body.
And the best part? These are all options that you can explore without going to the doctor’s surgery, physical therapy, or the hospital.
Picking up good vibrations
One of my patients made me aware of the benefits of Full Body Vibration, or FBV, where you do exercises on vibrating plates. The theory behind it is that, when your balance is thrown off by the vibrations, multiple muscle groups throughout your body respond by contracting and relaxing in an attempt to stabilise your posture. The result is a whole body workout utilising most of the muscles in your body.
Working out on these plates has been shown to improve mobility and posture in several studies using patients with Parkinson’s – and other neurological diseases that affect posture, like multiple sclerosis, are also obvious choices to apply this technology to.
Modern research on FBV first started in the 1970s, when Russian Olympic athletes who exercised on metal plates that vibrated rapidly reported great improvement in their workouts.
And believe it or not, it was also used on Russian cosmonauts to improve their bone density and strength while in space! NASA is now doing their own research into this for use on US astronauts.
The vibrational exercises are painless, and really give a sense of working out fully, even for patients who are pretty impaired physically. I urge all my Parkinson’s patients to consider adding this to their plan to reverse the disease. If you’re curious about picking up some of your own good, good, good vibrations, read the research for yourself on the websites www.hypervibe. com/uk and www.powerplate. com. Some gyms in the UK are now equipped with vibration exercise machines.
Ramp up your pedal power
I ran across some other fascinating research about exercise and Parkinson’s, and the story is incredible.
In 2003, Cleveland Clinic biomedical researcher Dr. Jay Alberts undertook a 200-mile ride on a tandem bike with a partner who had Parkinson’s disease. As they pedalled together, his partner got up to 80-90 rpm, which is MUCH faster than she could’ve ever pedalled normally.
And you know what? Shockingly, her tremor disappeared.
Eventually, after more preliminary studies were positive, the Cleveland Clinic initiated an NIH-funded study of ‘forced exercise’ in PD with a stationary bike called Theracycle, which has an assist motor. The person with PD slips their feet into pedals with toe straps and sets the motor’s speed, up to 90 rpm. The result of the study (and others) is that the person using the Theracycle regularly had statistically significant improvements in both manual dexterity and motor functioning, when compared with PD patients doing regular aerobic activity when they could choose how fast to go and whether or not to stop.
You can find Theracycle at some physical therapy facilities, or you can get one to use in your own home. I’ve got a Theracycle in my family room, and I find that 20 minutes per day at around 90 rpm makes a huge difference in my function during the entire day. Visit www. theracycle.com to learn more.
Fill your dance card
If you have PD, though,you might not want to stay at home for all of your exercise. It might be nice to have an activity companion other than your physical therapist.
So, if you’re looking for a more social form of exercising and movement, how does ballroom dancing sound?
There’s a whole body of research demonstrating the ability of ‘music-based movement therapy’(um, dancing) to slow down the progression and even reverse the symptoms of Parkinson’s and other movement disorders!
Just this past year, a large review of the existing studies supported dance as a demonstrable treatment for PD – and it doesn’t have to be just ballroom style, either. In fact, tango dancing has garnered the most studies of its usefulness in PD, while salsa and even Irish dancing have also been studied.
Multiple studies have also shown that there are many benefits to community-based dance workouts, so dance clubs and classes specifically designed for Parkinson’s patients have now popped up throughout Europe, as well as Canada and the US.
Regardless of your particular taste in music and style, choreographed dancing is great fun, really good for your heart health, and helps you work on your physical balance, your mental agility, and your state of mind. Learning something new as you get older is always a good idea.
Work on your right hook
Finally, if you’re looking for an activity that will help improve your mobility and function AND let you get your frustrations out at the same time, try doing a little dance around the boxing ring with Rock Steady Boxing.
Since vigorous exercise – preferably rhythmic and emphasising core strength and balance – can reverse the scourge of Parkinson’s disease, this programme puts people with PD through the same rigorous workouts as boxers go through.
No, you don’t get to spar with each other, so this isn’t the time to live out your Rocky fantasies – but they do try to make sure you’re having fun, no matter what your fitness level is or how much your PD has progressed.
The results have been so promising that mainstream medicine has even begun to embrace it. In America the National Parkinson Foundation is helping fund an expansion of the programme – and it has already spread to 11 states and three foreign countries from its origins in Indianapolis, just in the past year.
To find out more, visit www.RockSteadyBoxing.org or www.beatparkinsons.co.uk/projects/boxing-exercise-programme/
These are just a few examples of how exercise can work as a complementary therapy for a movement disorder like Parkinson’s.
Other studies have looked into the benefits of yoga, video game systems like the Wii Fit, and even virtual reality. Even if their benefits haven’t been scientifically proven yet, these activities have shown to do no harm to patients with Parkinson’s… and trying them might actually give you a good time.
My search is far from over, so keep reading my monthly Nutrition & Healing newsletters and my Health eTips emails for the latest findings.
Dr. Glenn S. Rothfeld
Nutrition & Healing
Vol. 10, Issue 3 • March 2016
Full references and citations for this article are available in the downloadable PDF version of the monthly Nutrition and Healing issue in which this article appears.