It’s long been said that exercise is vital to helping people with Parkinson’s. One bit of scientific evidence is a study published last fall that studied the effects on Parkinsonians of walking on a treadmill.
The objective: to see if gait and instability could be helped by walking regularly on a treadmill. After all, falling — or the fear of falling — can dramatically affect a patient’s quality of life.
Treadmill training has long been used to help rehabilitate people after strokes and spinal cord injuries, in part because it’s easier to build up strength if one can use the treadmill’s rails for support.
The study involved nine patients walking on a motorized treadmill four times a week, 30 minutes at a time, for six weeks, under the close supervision of a physical therapist. The speed of the treadmill was reevaluated each week; patients started out at a relatively slow speed that was gradually boosted.
The benefits were significant, both in the short and long term. Mobility improved by the end of the six-week period, and the patients were all enthusiastic about continuing an exercise program.
Several weeks after the study ended, patients were interviewed again. Not only were gait and mobility better than before the test, but their Parkinson’s rating scores were lower (better). Basically, everyone felt better, more confident, less likely to fall. Something about the rhythm, perhaps — which is echoed in the findings of other studies of the benefits of dancing and tai chi for Parkinsonians.
Bottom line: any exercise performed with rhythm and vigor is gonna help you feel better.