Saturday, November 21, 2015

Power Through Project – The Effects of Exercise on the (your) Brain

Parky and I after 12+ hr flight to Beijing
  For November, PTP diary writers are exploring the effects of exercise on the brain – a topic that has stimulated much research in recent years. It is also a question that I’m frequently asked during my Parkinson’s awareness activities and my standard response is based on my experiences as both, a patient and a physician.
     Fatigue is among the most prominent symptoms of Parkinson’s that I have experienced, although it is often difficult to determine what is truly due to Parkinson’s, a medication side effect or part of everyday life activities (such as the 12+ hour flight to Beijing I am on while writing this post). Regardless, I have found exercise to be a very effective way to combat fatigue.

The joy of realizing an exercise goal
     Despite the recent surge in research to better understand the effects of exercise on those with Parkinson’s, the variety of symptoms and stages of progression make it difficult to predict the effect of a specific exercise activity on a particular Parkinson’s patient. This fact frustrates many who want to answer the “what exercise is best for me” question. I suggest that focusing on this question is not necessary and recommend a simple 3-step approach to choosing an exercise routine. First, make sure the activity is safe - with special consideration to any Parkinson’s-related physical limitations you may have.  Second, pick something you are likely to enjoy, so you will want to continue to do it.  Finally, assess any benefits of exercise yourself.  In other words, do not be dependent on medical research to tell you what dancing, biking, walking…or swimming a mile in a Pacific island will do for your Parkinson’s symptoms…go ahead and find out for yourself.
      Once you’ve chosen an exercise routine, there are many barriers to maintaining the program. This is where I’ve found goals to be particularly useful. Whether training for a triathlon or a travel/exercise challenge, these targets keep me motivated. 

     I recommend everyone try setting an exercise goal to spur them on, and what could be more motivating than joining a program specifically designed to get everyone with Parkinson’s exercising regularly - the Parkinson Power Through Project?

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