Strength Training for Parkinson’s

Strength training for Parkinson's disease: Slowing the Progression

Strength Training for Parkinson's Disease Brain Anatomy

Due to high-profile cases in recent decades, the US is very aware of Parkinson’s disease.

Celebrities like Michael J. Fox, Ozzy Osborne, and late icons Muhammad Ali and Johnny Cash are a few of the famous names who were/are inflicted with the disease.

In the US, 60,000 new cases of Parkinson’s are diagnosed annually.

While Parkinson’s is not terminal, symptoms can significantly affect the individual’s quality of life.

Research has shown exercise, strength training, in particular, can improve symptoms and slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Keep reading…

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a central nervous system condition that causes tremors and affects bodily movements.

Dopamine levels diminish as a result of nerve cell destruction in the brain, resulting in a slew of symptoms.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s

This disease manifests by disrupting physical abilities:

  • Causing tremors
  • Postural instability
  • Slow, rigid movement

Those diagnosed with Parkinson’s often suffer from:

  • Debilitating fatigue
  • Strength loss
  • Accelerated muscle atrophy

Muscle atrophy already accelerates after the age of 25, where individuals without Parkinson’s can expect to lose anywhere from a pound to a pound and a half of lean muscle every year on average, so you can imagine how adding Parkinson’s to the mix is particularly troublesome.

Brain imaging showing a loss in serotonin function as Parkinson's disease progresses. Red/yellow areas show that serotonin function reduces before movement symptoms develop. [Neurodegeneration Imaging Group, King's College London.]

Strength Training as a Treatment

Currently, there is no cure for Parkinson’s. With that in mind, science has focused on ways to improve the quality of life for those with the disease.

Among the proven treatment options is something we know well: strength training.

Strength training reverses some of the physical effects of Parkinson’s and can possibly match the physical ability of Parkinson’s sufferers to that of those without the disease.

Physiological Improvements

Physical improvements for Parkinson’s patients are demonstrated by a few studies, most notably research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In a four-month study, 15 patients exercised in a full-body strength training workout three days per week.

The routine featured some of the familiar exercises we do at The Perfect Workout, including the leg press, chest press, and lat pull-down. The researchers measured a number of physiological and functional areas at the start and end of the study.

The strength training program was successful in reversing a number of areas generally affected by Parkinson’s.

The participants improved their strength by at least one-third in all major muscle groups. Muscle size increased, including a 36% improvement for fast-twitch muscle fibers (the fibers most responsible for performing challenging tasks).

The trainees were able to walk an additional 140 feet in a six-minute walk test, indicating better endurance, walking speed, and walking ability. Imagine being able to walk another 140 feet during a grocery trip or vacation with family!

Balance on one leg improved by 34%, meaning the people with Parkinson’s were able to stand longer on one leg and were less likely to experience a fall.

The most profound result was from the standing test.

The standing test in this study showed how many muscle fibers were needed for the Parkinson’s sufferers to stand from a seated position. At the start of the study, standing required a near-maximum effort (90% of muscle fibers). Imagine that: needing nearly all of your strength to stand from a chair.

At the end of the study, only 60% of muscle fibers were used to perform a stand. In other words, standing became much easier.

In fact, those with Parkinson’s disease used the same amount of effort to stand after the training program as people the same age who did not have Parkinson’s!

Balance Exercises

The Parkinson’s Foundation recommends doing exercises to improve balance. Some simple at-home exercises include:

  • Walking heel to toe
  • Side leg raises
  • Wall pushups
  • Marching in place

Resistance exercises can also help to improve strength and balance overall.

A 2014 study noticed an increase in balance (and a lower rate of falling) during 12 weeks of strength training when compared to the months prior to training.

In another study, researchers from the Netherlands and Belgium assessed 28 studies using strength training or various types of activity to see what practices are effective for reducing falls and fall risk factors.

Twenty of those studies focused on strength training. The research shows strength exercises also led to improvements in walking speed, static balance, and balance while moving.

Parkinson’s at The Perfect Workout

Many of our members have been able to improve their conditions at The Perfect Workout, including Parkinson’s.

One of our members, Sandie from McGaheysville, VA has early-onset Parkinson's. She has days where she experiences more stiffness in her joints than others. Her trainer Melissa works with her as a team to assess how her body feels on each exercise.

“We're able to adapt each workout based on her energy level or her level of feeling, stiff joints or not. And she knows that no matter what by the end of the workout, she feels much stronger and she feels that that has helped her with some of her symptoms.”

To learn more about exercise’s role in slowing Parkinson’s disease progression, enjoy this presentation from Daniel M. Corcos, PhD, professor of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences at Northwestern University. Dr. Corcos answers many of the questions about how to combat Parkinson's disease through progressive resistance exercise and endurance exercise.

Strength Training for Parkinson’s … It Helps.

As a whole, strength training improves muscle strength, muscle tissue, endurance, walking ability, balance, and the effort needed to perform daily activities for those with Parkinson’s.

With this in mind, strength training is an excellent option to help stop or reverse the physical and functional effects of Parkinson’s disease.

If you would like to learn more about our method of strength training, read about our methodology. If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a workout with us and start with a FREE Introductory Session.

  1. Cadore, E. L., Casas-Herrero, A., Zambom-Ferraresi, F., Idoate, F., Millor, N., Gómez, M.,…& Izquierdo, M. (2014). Multicomponent exercises including muscle power training enhance muscle mass, power output, and functional outcomes in institutionalized frail nonagenarians. Age, 36(2), 773-785.
  2. De Kam, D., Smulders, E., Weerdesteyn, V., & Smits-Engelsman, B.C. (2009). Exercise interventions to reduce fall-related fractures and their risk factors in individuals with low bone density: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Osteoporosis International, 20, 2111-2125.
  3. Kelly, N. A., Ford, M. P., Standaert, D. G., Watts, R. L., Bickel, C. S., Moellering, D. R., … & Bamman, M. M. (2014). Novel, high intensity exercise prescription improves muscle mass, mitochondrial function, and physical capacity in individuals with Parkinson’s disease. Journal of Applied Physiology, 116(5), 582-592.
  4. Volpi, Elena et al. “Muscle tissue changes with aging.” Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care vol. 7,4 (2004): 405-10. doi:10.1097/01.mco.0000134362.76653.b2

Decreased Risk For Fall: Improving Balance for Seniors

Decreased Risk For Fall: Improving Balance for Seniors

The Perfect Workout Client happy that she improved her balance

How Beth Decreased her Risk For Fall in 6 months

A progressive neurological condition that affected Beth Johns’ coordination and balance was slowly increasing her risk for a harmful fall.

As she approached her 60s, Beth stopped trying to manage her health and fitness alone and sought out an exercise program at The Perfect Workout.

Beth lives with a condition called Ataxia.

What is Ataxia?

“Ataxia describes a lack of muscle control or coordination of voluntary movements, such as walking or picking up objects.” (Mayo Clinic)

This condition can cause:

  • Poor coordination
  • Balance problems
  • Unsteady walk and a tendency to stumble
  • Difficulty walking in a straight line
  • Difficulty with fine motor tasks, such as eating, writing or buttoning a shirt
  • Change in speech
  • Involuntary back-and-forth eye movements (nystagmus)
  • Difficulty swallowing

Beth in particular, would often feel unsteady on her feet and easily lose her balance. 

“I've fallen a few times and was really worried and discouraged that my condition was progressing much faster than I had expected it to. The more I worried about it, the less I felt like doing.”

Beth was approaching her 60th birthday and knew she needed to take a different course of action. 

She tried doing strength and balance DVDs on her own but found it was hard to stay motivated. 

Beth knew that joining a gym wouldn't work for her because she really needed the one-on-one support. She needed someone there to guide her, teach her how to exercise correctly, and keep her accountable.

Woman Celebrating International Ataxia Awareness Day

After doing her research, Beth found The Perfect workout. She felt reassured when she saw people her age improving some of her same areas of concern, like falling

The idea of being able to see results in 20 minutes, twice a week without having to be in a public setting was very appealing. 

In November, 2020 Beth joined the Southwest San Jose studio and began her training program.

Beth’s goal was to strengthen her core and increase her overall strength to decrease her risk of falling. She had also recently had been diagnosed with osteopenia and knew it was important to do weight-bearing exercise to improve her bone density

Within 7 months, Beth has noticed significant improvements.

  • Gained strength
  • Back isn’t stiff in the morning anymore
  • Improved her posture and has good balance on her feet
  • Can squat down and stand up without falling over
  • Physical therapist says she’s improved a lot in the past year.
Testimonial Improved Balance From Wife with Husband

“All of the trainers I've worked with have been wonderful. Patient and encouraging. They've pushed me to do much more than I thought I was capable of. Candice got me started. Maria and Kylie have definitely kept me going!”

 

Feeling physically stronger and steadier makes Beth feel like she’s taken charge of her Ataxia and has greatly improved her mental wellbeing. She now sees that Investing in her physical health is an investment in her future, especially as she gets older, and encourages others to do the same.

 

“Friends that I haven't seen in a while say that I really look great! I definitely feel more confident. I know that it's only going to get better.”

 

The Perfect Workout is for regular people, just like Beth. It's not intimidating. It's a personalized experience and the trainers are there to help support your success. And it’s possible to see results in just 20 minutes, twice a week.

Stay Upright to Stay Alive. STRENGTH TRAIN

Stay upright to stay alive. Strength train

Fitness Training Mill Valley CA

Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall. Every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from one (CDC).

Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.

To avoid battling the trauma of a fall, strength training is the solution. Here’s how…

Older adults who strength train, even for as little as two months, are less likely to fall.

This is likely due to the importance of strength itself, which is a large underlying factor in

Balance.

The Center for Disease Control states that one in every three adults at least 65 years old fall every year. About 20-30% of these falls lead to injuries of some kind. When considering these statistics, it’s no surprise that falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in older adults.

Part of the reason why falls are so dangerous for older adults but less so for middle-aged adults or children is due to bone density.

Osteoporosis, a disease of low bone mass, is most common in older adults, especially post-menopausal women. Men and women generally start losing bone density in their mid-thirties but this trend doesn’t become significant until around 55 years old.

Strength Trainer Mill Valley CA

As bone mass decreases, bones become hollower and break easier, even with a soft fall from a standing position. Effective strength training can slow bone density loss, and even reverse the process and increase bone density in many people. Strength training can prevent falls from occurring too.

Two studies focused on adults between 85 to 97 years old strength training and measured rate of falls before and during training. One study, published in 2014, noticed an increase in balance and a lower rate of falling during 12 weeks of strength training when compared to the months prior to training.

In a 2011 study, older adults who strength trained experienced an average of one less fall during the eight-week training period when compared to a control group that only performed stretching. A 2013 research review of 107 fall prevention studies showed that strength training led to lower fall rates 70% of the time.

The participants in both groups experienced another benefit which may explain why balance and fall rates improved: they gained strength in muscles that control their knee and hip joints. Strength dictates the ease of the body to move, especially when overcoming obstacles such as walking on unstable surfaces or over objects.

Fitness Trainer Mill Valley CA

The worst kind of Fall

There’s a condition which is responsible for taking the lives of about one of every four people who suffer from it within one year of developing it. It is something that we’ll all face the risk of, and it affects both men and women as we age. It’s not heart disease. It’s not diabetes. It’s a hip fracture. 

About 1.6 million hip fractures occur yearly, a significant increase from the early 1990s. Hip fractures largely happen as the result of falls along with osteoporosis. In other words, hip fractures are merely the awful consequence of two ongoing issues: poor balance and weak, hollow bones. Balance is largely an issue of weakness.

A collection of 30 studies found that adults, 65 and older, were at a much greater risk of falling when having very little strength. The individuals with the weakest lower body muscles were 76% more likely to suffer a fall. For all individuals who did suffer a fall, the ones with the weakest legs were three times more likely to fall again!

Strength Training Falls Church

Does strength training reduce all risks?

You might be wondering, does strength training address ALL areas that contribute to fractured hips? Does resistance exercise improve bone strength, balance, muscle strength, and reduce fall risk? Researchers from the Netherlands and Belgium assessed 28 studies using strength training or various types of activity to see what practices are effective for reducing falls and fall risk factors. Twenty of those studies focused on strength training. Here are the key results:

  • People who strength trained gained strength in every study that measured strength.
  • Those who strength trained improved bone density in the lumbar spine, hip, and thigh in most cases.
  • Strength exercise also led to improvements in walking speed, static balance, and balance while moving.
  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly, fall risk decreased. Two of three studies showed large reductions in the rate of falling when comparing strength training towards other programs.

Hip fractures are a common and life-threatening concern. They happen as a result of several issues: weak bones, poor balance/a high risk of falling, and weak muscles. Strength training reduces the overall rate of falling and bone fractures because it increases the ability to balance, increases muscle strength, and makes the bones stronger and more resistant. Stay upright. Stay alive. Strength train today.

  1. Cadore, E. L., Casas-Herrero, A., Zambom-Ferraresi, F., Idoate, F., Millor, N., Gómez, M.,…& Izquierdo, M. (2014). Multicomponent exercises including muscle power training enhance muscle mass, power output, and functional outcomes in institutionalized frail nonagenarians. Age, 36(2), 773-785.
  2. El-Khoury, F., Cassou, B., Charles, M. A., & Dargent-Molina, P. (2013). The effect of fall prevention exercise programmes on fall induced injuries in community dwelling older adults: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Bmj, 347, f6234.
  3. Serra‐Rexach, J. A., Bustamante‐Ara, N., Hierro Villarán, M., González Gil, P., Sanz Ibáñez, M. J., Blanco Sanz, N., … & Lucia, A. (2011). Short‐term, light‐to moderate‐intensity exercise training improves leg muscle strength in the oldest old: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society,59(4), 594-602.
  4. International Osteoporosis Foundation. (2017). Facts and statistics. IOF. Retrieved from https://www.iofbonehealth.org/facts-statistics
  5. Moreland, J.D., Richardson, J.A., Goldsmith, C.H., & Clase, C.M. (2004). Muscle weakness and falls in older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 52(7), 1121-1129.
  6. De Kam, D., Smulders, E., Weerdesteyn, V., & Smits-Engelsman, B.C. (2009). Exercise interventions to reduce fall-related fractures and their risk factors in individuals with low bone density: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Osteoporosis International, 20, 2111-2125.

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