April 27, 2014 | by Darcy Blake | Among current treatments (for Parkinson’s Disease), exercise is at the forefront,” announced Kaiser-Permanente physiatrist Dr. Ramon Quesada introducing the Dr. Becky Farley presentation on exercise for Parkinson’s Disease at the Veterans Memorial Senior Center in Redwood City.
Dr. Quesada told an audience of 180 people that this day marks history, because it will be the day that the “exercise revolution” began for PWP (people with Parkinson’s). Dr. Quesada and John Berdoulay, physical therapist at Kaiser, are two of the organizers of Dr. Farley’s talk hosted by Stanford APDA in cooperation with Parkinson’s Patients Support Groups (PPSG) and Kaiser Permanente/Redwood City.
“There shouldn’t be barrier to bring exercise to people living with PD,“ Dr. Farley said. She described ways to create “exercise as medicine,” and she urged the audience to think of themselves as athletes when they consider their exercise options. The PWR! vision includes communities where individuals with PD treat exercise as medicine.
Dr. Becky Farley, a popular neuro rehabilitation specialist and neuroscientist, is the founder of Arizona-based Parkinson Wellness Recovery (PWR!). She developed the LSVT BIG program, a physical therapy program designed for those with PD. Although it is still beneficial, LSVT BIG program offers fewer exercises and isn’t integrated in the same way that Dr. Farley’s current exercises have evolved over recent years. In an effort to help others form their own networks, she is training therapists and instructors in the Bay Area for four days. After the courses are done, there will be 94 newly trained PD exercise experts in the Bay Area. Her team member for the presentation and training is Dr. Claire McLean of Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach.
Dr. McLean initiated a talk on creating “exercise as medicine” with the directive: get educated. Using a popular quote, “knowledge is power and PWR! is knowledge,” she explained that exercise is a tool to change your body from the inside out. Studies on animals have shown that exercise promotes brain health – from neuroprotection (preclinical), to neurorepair (early phase of PD), to adaptation (the late phase of PD). There is also exciting exercise research in humans with PD. She referred to research from USC that shows we can improve symptoms and function if we get started with exercise immediately upon diagnosis. “Use it or lose it, use it and improve it,” she emphasized.
Dr. McLean cited studies showing that people are already 1/3 less active than others at the time they are diagnosed. PWP must avoid inactivity and stress, and optimize their rest, diet, health and lifestyle. Their priority should be to exercise in a social support system, with a team of professionals to improve their ability to achieve optimal fitness and function. Don’t try to do all of this yourself, she warned. Professional athletes don’t do it alone; they seek out professional coaches. You need to get empowered and take control, and find a PWR! Therapist!
You should periodically reassess your exercise and how you are feeling to stay on top of your performance. You need motivation, which means checking in regularly with your movement disorder specialist as well as with your exercise coaches. You need to keep your medications optimized in order to focus on your quality of life and your desire to stay active.
Medications alone are not enough for PWP because exercise addresses the non-motor symptoms such as cognitive function and emotional issues. Skill acquisition and aerobic training help increase motor output that increases your gait speed, and they can improve your symptoms.
The PWR! exercises are really based on four key movements: your ability to power up (get up against gravity), twist, step and rock. If you can stay engaged, while you do these exercises, integrating amplitude in all that you do, you can target PD-specific symptoms such as rigidity, bradykinesia, lack of coordination and balance, cognitive attention deficit, and emotional imbalance.
Dr. Farley’s favorite exercise if you can only do one? Pole-walking! With a couple of poles, focusing on powering up your step, you can incorporate rock, twist and step into a full-balanced workout that will have you feeling better. “It never gets easier, you just get better,” smiled Dr. McLean, citing a favorite quote.
For a list of PWR! therapists and instructors in your area: www.pwr4life.org
Other blogs about PWR!
•Goal Accomplished: Bring PWR to Bay Area PD Patients
• PRW! In the Forefront for PD Exercise
• Five Days at PRW! Gym Tucson
• Trailblazers Test the PWR! Retreat
• Walking is a Miracle
About Parkinson’s Women Support
The mission of Parkinson’s Women Support is to offer moral support, encouragement and camaraderie for women who are either Parkinson’s Disease patients or caregivers. Check out our Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/parkinsonswomen