Clinical Neurosciences Center

Exercise Tools Help People Live Well With Parkinson's Disease

Leading Experts Address Questions about Exercise, Empower People to Bridge Communication Gaps with Care Providers

Oct. 19, 2010 – The Davis Phinney Foundation (website), a non-profit foundation whose mission is to provide information and tools that help people to live well with Parkinson’s disease, today announced the availability of a new exercise DVD: “Exercise and Parkinson’s: Questions and Answers from the Experts.” This DVD features a panel of movement disorder experts in the fields of physical therapy and exercise physiology who answer common questions about exercise and Parkinson’s disease, discuss the research related to exercise and offer tips and tools designed to reinforce the importance of exercise as a core strategy for living well at all ages and stages of Parkinson’s.

The new DVD is the latest effort by the Davis Phinney Foundation to identify and respond to unmet needs for information and tools within the Parkinson’s community. Surveys conducted by the Foundation continue to demonstrate the communications gap between people with Parkinson’s disease and their treatment providers concerning exercise. Among some of the findings:  while 81 percent of people with Parkinson’s surveyed said they believed that exercise can slow disease progression, less than half (40 percent) reported discussing their exercise with their physician within six months of diagnosis, and almost one in five (19 percent) said they never discussed exercise with their physician. In those cases where exercise has been part of the discussion, patients leave with many unanswered questions regarding the types and frequency of exercise that will be most helpful for them.

“Exercise and Parkinson’s: Questions and Answers from the Experts” features leading movement disorder experts in the field of physical therapy and exercise – Terry Ellis, PT, Ph.D., NCS, Boston University; Mark A. Hirsch, Ph.D., Carolinas Rehabilitation/Carolinas Medical Center; Matthew Ford, PT, M.A., Ph.D., The University of Alabama at Birmingham; and Lee Dibble, PT, Ph.D., ATC, University of Utah – and people living with Parkinson’s disease who demonstrate the importance of exercise and share insight on incorporating exercise into a Parkinson’s disease treatment plan. The DVD is provided at no charge for people enrolled in the Foundation’s Every Victory Counts™ self-care management program (website), which connects people with Parkinson’s disease to a wealth of valuable educational materials, including an interactive manual that empowers people to live well with Parkinson’s disease today and take a more active role in managing their care.

“Exercise should be part of the standard of care for Parkinson’s disease as the growing body of scientific evidence strongly demonstrates the effectiveness of exercise as an essential tool for maintaining balance, mobility and daily quality of life, not to mention the possibility that exercise might actually protect nerve cells and slow disease progression in the brain,” said Dr. Ellis. 

Rob Biddle, 54, who is featured in the DVD training with Dr. Hirsch, follows an exercise plan that consists of spin classes, resistance training, treadmill walking and balance training at his local YMCA. “I am committed to this exercise routine to address my Parkinson’s symptoms and now feel better than when I was 30 years old,” Biddle said. “I am convinced that if I continue exercising, it will help me maintain my strength and balance longer.I would encourage anyone with Parkinson’s disease to begin an exercise program.”

In addition to the “Exercise and Parkinson’s: Questions and Answers from the Experts” DVD, the Davis Phinney Foundation has also developed Top 10 Tips for exercising with Parkinson’s and the research that supports them. Among the tips (a full list is available here)

  • Exercise is medicine. Exercise has been proven to build a healthier heart, lungs, and muscles, boost metabolism, prevent diabetes, and reduces disability. New research suggests that exercise may even provide neuroprotection – slowing the progression of Parkinson’s in the brain by safeguarding vulnerable nerve cells from damage and degeneration. 
  • Have fun. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t stick with it. 
  • Do something you like. Dance, yoga, tai chi, cycling and strength exercises have all been shown to help with physical and cognitive symptoms of Parkinson’s. 
  • Also try exercising with a group. Research shows that people stick with exercise when there is encouragement and an expectation for you to show up.

“The Davis Phinney Foundation is pleased to provide these resources as a direct response to needs identified in the Parkinson’s community”, said Amy Howard, Executive Director of the Davis Phinney Foundation. “Research is now supporting the experience of people living with Parkinson’s – if you exercise you will feel better and you will positively affect many of the symptoms of Parkinson’s – including movement, depression and sleep.  It’s critical that people educate themselves and make exercise a core component of their care.”

For additional Every Victory Counts program and registration information, visit Every Victory Counts or call 1-877-279-5277. All program proceeds support Davis Phinney Foundation-funded Parkinson’s research and educational programs.

About The Davis Phinney Foundation

The Davis Phinney Foundation was created in 2004 by cycling legend Davis Phinney and is dedicated to helping people with Parkinson’s disease live well today. The foundation’s major initiatives include: The Every Victory Counts™ Program, developed by movement disorder experts to encourage living well with Parkinson’s; Victory Summit series of symposia, which bring leading experts into local communities to share the latest advances in science, care and inspire those affected by the disease to celebrate the daily victories in their lives; and the funding of research focused on exercise, speech and other quality of life therapies. Learn more by visiting the web site.