On Sunday, our Inspired Women with Parkinson’s in Los Angeles group met with Dr. Ali Elder of [re+active] physical therapy and wellness in Los Angeles. Dr. Elder spoke to us about the benefits of exercise for People with Parkinson’s (PWP) and showed slides of dopamine in the brain before and after exercise. Exercises can delay the progression of the disease and the release of dopamine in our brains can make us happier.
The bottom line: Exercise is medicine, don’t forget your daily dose! Exercise on a regular basis, but make sure that it is something that you enjoy. The fact that you enjoy it is a result of the increased dopamine in your brain. And the exercise does not have to be limited to just doing cardio on a bike. Dancing, hiking, walking, yoga, boxing, tennis and more have been shown to not only increase our dopamine, but also our flexibility, balance and general well being.
So when and why should you see a physical therapist? According to Dr. Elder, you should be seen immediately after diagnosis. An assessment will help determine how the PD is affecting your gait, your reflexes, balance and much more. Exercises can be assigned to address your issues and help to slow to the progression of the disease. It was recommended to start with one visit to get a baseline of physical function and then the frequency of follow-ups can vary from once per week, once every six month and everything in between.
A physical therapist can also talk to you about taking your medications properly and the effects of food on your medications. Only a few women in the room had actually gone to a physical therapist. Most of us did not know that this was an option for us.
Finally, Dr. Elder and her assistant, Jazzy led us through a PWR!Moves workout. PWR!Moves is a PD-specific skill training program to maintain or restore skills that deteriorate and interfere with everyday movements. There are 4 basic exercises designed to address symptoms related to Parkinson’s. PWR!Up, PWR!Rock, PWR!Twist and PWR!Step. After going through different versions of each of the 4 exercises fairly confidently, we then had to walk across the room throwing a scarf in the air and catching it with the opposite hand. Chaos ensued. Just when you think you have figured it out, your balance is affected. Try it and see what happens.