EXERCISING SAFELY AT HOME: HOW TO STAY MOVING IN A VIRTUAL WORLD

HOW TO STAY MOVING in a virtual world

The COVID-19 pandemic has been such a significant fixture in our lives over the past year and upended many aspects of our regular routines. Thankfully now that vaccination is becoming more prevalent, people are slowly resuming some of their pre-pandemic activities.

One silver lining of the pandemic is it introduced us to new ways of doing things. For example, we can now access all sorts of activities online, including exercise! APDA has a multitude of online exercise options that guide you safely through exercises designed specifically for people with PD. We even created a special Virtual Events Calendar so you can see all of the online programs available to you – just click the “Health and Wellness Class” filter to find exercise and movement classes that you can participate in from anywhere.

Examples of FREE online exercise classes and resources for you to try:

  • APDA’s Greater St. Louis Chapter’s YouTube channel– Here you’ll find a large number of recorded classes that you can watch and follow at any time. Classes include tai chi, yoga, interval training, kickboxing, chair exercises and more. Additional classes are added regularly, so keep checking back.
  • Dance for PD®, administered by the renowned Mark Morris Dance Group, offers specialized dance classes to people with Parkinson’s, their families, friends and care partners. Dance for PD has been offering two free weekly online classes in conjunction with APDA – Dance for PD® PRO,and PD Movement Lab with Pamela Quinn.
  • Let’s Keep Moving With APDA: Physical Therapy experts from APDA’s National Rehabilitation Center at Boston University host a series of webinars about the importance of movement for people with PD, how to move safely, how to improve your balance, and much more.

And if online classes are not your thing, you can download APDA’s free exercise guide Be Active & Beyond: A Guide to Exercise and Wellness for People with Parkinson’s Disease which shows an assortment of easy-to-follow exercises for people of all abilities.

So clear an area in your living room and get moving!

HOW DO WE KNOW EXERCISE HELPS PEOPLE WITH PARKINSON’S?

We keep telling you that exercise is important (in past blogs and webinars for example). But what is the evidence that these exercise techniques really help people with PD? Let’s review three of these types of exercise – tai chi, yoga and dance – and look at the data as to how effective they are for people with PD.

Tai chi

Tai chi is an ancient Chinese form of martial arts, which today is practiced as a style of exercise combining flowing movements, breathing techniques and meditative practices. Tai chi is low impact and is suitable for all ages and levels of fitness. It does not require any special equipment.

There has been research focused on the general health benefits of tai chi, and these may include reduction of stress, anxiety and depression, as well as improved flexibility, balance, agility, strength and stamina.

There have also been studies focused on the health benefits of tai chi specifically for people with PD and the available evidence is relatively strong. For example, a randomized controlled trial for Tai chi in people with PD was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2012. In this study, 195 people with PD were randomized to one of three exercise groups – tai chi, resistance training, or stretching. The patient performed their assigned exercise in 60-minute sessions twice weekly for 24 weeks. The tai chi group performed better than the other two groups on many fitness measures and measures of balance. In addition, the tai chi group had a lower incidence of falls as compared to the stretching group (but not as compared to the resistance training group). The effects of tai chi were maintained at a three-month follow up after the training sessions were complete. Additional smaller studies have continued to support these positive findings.

Yoga

Another exercise modality that has been studied in PD is yoga. Yoga is a Hindu philosophy that has evolved into a method of physical poses, breathing exercises and meditation. It is practiced widely for its physical and emotional benefits and has been studied specifically to determine its potential benefits for people with PD.  The yoga studies in PD are not as large or as compelling as the above cited tai chi study, but enough data is available to suggest that it is useful for certain aspects of PD. A recent study for example, investigated a twice-weekly, eight-week yoga program for people with PD who expressed a fear of falling and compared them to similar PD patients who were on a wait list for the program. Those who participated in the yoga group showed improvement in motor function, postural instability, measures of gait, freezing of gait and reduction in falls. Those on the wait list intriguingly showed improvement on postural instability, but not on any of the other measures including reduction in falls. A limitation of this study is that only 15 people were studied in each of the groups. Additional, larger studies are necessary to confirm these findings.

Dance

A third exercise modality that has been studied in PD is dance. A number of studies have shown benefits both for motor and non-motor symptoms of PD. For example, in one small study, 15 patients with PD participated in dance classes, twice weekly for twenty weeks, and were compared to a control group that received usual care. Those who were in the dance group showed increased coordination. In another study, non-motor benefits of dance were assessed. 17 patients with PD received twice-weekly dance classes for 12 weeks and were compared to PD patients who received usual care. Those in the dance classes showed improvements on measures of psychological symptoms and quality of life, as well as limited improvement of measures of cognition.

These are just three types of exercise that show promise and benefit for people with PD. So go ahead and try an online dance, yoga or tai chi class at home (and when life gets back to normal, you can also attend these classes in person!). Or you can try another exercise type that piques your interest and start moving!

Tips and takeaways

  • It is vital to continue moving and exercising if you have PD
  • Virtual exercise classes are a great way to keep moving, no matter where you live
  • APDA’s Virtual Events Calendar puts all of our upcoming exercise and movement classes at your fingertips.
  • APDA’s Greater St. Louis Chapter hosts a YouTube channel with a myriad of free online classes for people with PD.
  • There is data that indicates tai chi, yoga and dance offer health benefits for people with PD.

 

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Dr. Rebecca Gilbert

APDA Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer

Dr. Gilbert received her MD degree at Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York and her PhD in Cell Biology and Genetics at the Weill Graduate School of Medical Sciences. She then pursued Neurology Residency training as well as Movement Disorders Fellowship training at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. Prior to coming to APDA, she was an Associate Professor of Neurology at NYU Langone Medical Center. In this role, she saw movement disorder patients, initiated and directed the NYU Movement Disorders Fellowship, participated in clinical trials and other research initiatives for PD and lectured widely on the disease.

A Closer Look ArticlePosted in Exercise & Parkinson's, Living with Parkinson's

DISCLAIMER: Any medical information disseminated via this blog is solely for the purpose of providing information to the audience, and is not intended as medical advice. Our healthcare professionals cannot recommend treatment or make diagnoses, but can respond to general questions. We encourage you to direct any specific questions to your personal healthcare providers.