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Exercise For Parkinsons Disease

Yesterday was the 70th birthday of boxing legend Muhammad Ali. The ex-heavyweight fighter is one of the most distinguished and admired athletes in sports history who is best known for his flashy, entertaining style of boxing, his confident trash talking and lethal knock-out punches.  Today, he is also seen as one of the most famous personalities who suffers with Parkinson’s disease and rarely is his name not associated with Parkinson’s in the media.  Parkinson’s Disease has been heavily focused on in the media this week while celebrating the birthday of the self-proclaimed “Greatest ” boxer of all time.

Here in Ireland it is estimated by the Parkinson’s Association of Ireland that there are between 6000-7000 individuals who are affected by the disease.

What is Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic disorder which causes a slowing of movement in the body. The disease is the result of a lack of the chemical dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps nerve cells talk to other nerve cells. With Parkinson’s, the communicative ability of the nerve declines. Resting tremor, seen as an uncontrolled shaking of the hands, may also occur. Changes in motor control can affect many different areas of the body. It may affect one or many areas of the body. There is currently no known cure for Parkinson’s disease but doctors can prescribe drugs which help to limit the symptoms. Physiotherapy can also be prescribed to help regulate motor control changes that are synonymous with the disease.

Changes in Motor Control Planning Movement

Initiating Movement may provide difficulty. Reaction times may be slower and this can often cause people to lose their balance while walking.  Activities that occur in a step-by-step fashion may also be slowed, such as getting up out of chairs.


Gait refers to the way individuals walk. People may notice changes in their Gait such as festinating Gait patterns. This means as people walk, they begin to take, small rapid steps. This in turn increases the likelihood of losing balance.


Very often posture is more flexed forward which leads to decreased balance and in turn falls.

Hand Motion

As motor planning become effected people will notice hand movements will change. Individuals may reach for items and miss them entirely or may have difficulty initiating movement those reach items.


Changes in muscular patterns of the face and neck may make it difficult to swallow and also in speaking.

Exercises Which Can help With Parkinson’s Disease

The goal of exercise for people with Parkinson’s is very simply to promote physical activity. All exercise should be discussed with doctor and physio’s prior to undertaking. Exercise aims to improve quality of life in suffers of the condition.

Walking and Balance Exercises

Strengthening exercises for the hips, knees and ankles are all recommended. This helps to promote normal steps and striding length. This can also improve balance which assists walking safely and can decrease the chance of falls.

Aerobic Exercises

Endurance may be limited in sufferers, so exercise which promotes improved cardiovascular and pulmonary fitness is ideal. Activities such as treadmill walking, static bike riding and arm endurance exercise are all good choices to achieve and maintain aerobic fitness. Exercise also improves mood and creates a sense of well-being.

Postural Exercise

Postural problems can lead to difficulties breathing  as well as leading to increased risk of falls. Postural exercise helps to stretch tight chest and arm muscles which aid contraction of the muscles that support shoulder blades. Improving posture supports breathing which in turn may lead to longer endurance while engaging in exercise.

Happy 70th birthday Muhammad Ali !!

For a list of  exercises please visit:’s_disease_and_exercise?open

This is just a short summary of how exercise can help with Parkinson’s disease; there are of course many other methods which can assist the individual (i.e. drugs, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy etc.). If you are thinking of beginning exercise consult your doctor or physio who will be able to advise you best as to what you should be doing and what your limits are.

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