Individuals with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) experience many challenges. Gait or walking problems cause over 68 percent of people with PD to fall at least once. A fall can result in hospitalization, decreased independence, and even death.
Gait training focuses on increasing balance and improving walking skills. Developing a habit of regular exercise reduces the negative effects of PD. Keep reading to learn more.
What Is Parkinson’s Disease?
PD results from the damage to or death of brain neurons (nerve cells) that control movement. This leads to a decreased production of the brain chemical dopamine. Dopamine plays a significant role in our ability to move.
Nerve endings that release norepinephrine are also lost. This chemical messenger controls automatic functions including blood pressure and heart rate. Drops in blood pressure often occur when sitting up or standing.
Decreased norepinephrine also contributes to fatigue and slows the flow of food in the digestive tract.
What It’s Like to Have Parkinson’s?
Most people think of tremors as the main problem for people with PD. Yet, it may begin by feeling confused or having “fluffy” thinking.
You may have trouble forming words and notice that other people can’t understand you. Your voice sounds monotone, soft, and without inflection. As speaking becomes harder, the speech rate slows, slurs, or lacks normal flow.
Your movements become slower (bradykinesia). This makes completing simple tasks harder and takes longer. It’s common to feel unbalanced while walking.
To compensate, many people take shorter steps and may shuffle or drag their feet. You may notice that your posture stoops over. It becomes harder to get up from a chair.
The loss of automatic movement affects blinking, arms swinging when walking, and smiling. This contributes to dry eyes, balance problems, and social interaction.
Decreased dopamine causes muscle stiffness and tremors. Many people with PD experience “freezing episodes” where they feel unable to move. Reduced muscle control can also make it hard to write and decreases legibility.
Fall Risk Associated with Parkinson’s Walk Impairments
These changes in balance and difficulty walking are often the most disabling part of PD. In fact, the hallmark features of PD are slow, shuffling steps with the legs wider apart. Changes in walking movements, posture, balance, and freezing episodes increases fall risks.
Importance of Adhering to an Exercise Plan
A tailored PD gait training exercise plan can help you manage and decrease symptoms. Did you know that the act of exercising increases dopamine production in the body? This improves treatment by increasing dopamine in addition to prescribed dopamine medications.
To optimize the benefit of an exercise program, it’s key that you adhere to a regular schedule. Making exercise a daily habit will allow you to gain the most benefits. This includes better flexibility, movement, balance, less rigidity, and lower body fat.
If you only participate on an intermittent basis, you won’t reach the same end results.
Gait Training as One Part of Exercise Therapy
Gait training includes a variety of exercises to improve posture, balance, and walking. Choose activities you enjoy like yoga, dance, Tai Chi, or walking groups to help motivate you.
Include gait-specific exercises to reduce problems such as gait freezing. The following gives examples of gait training exercises:
In this exercise, you practice walking by placing one heel in front of your other toe. If you have trouble with balance, it may help to use a cane, walker, or safety bar. You can even do this by walking using your kitchen counter for support.
Heel and Toe Raises
Sit in a chair and alternate raising your toes and heels. Be sure that one part of your foot is always touching the floor.
While sitting, alternate lifting one leg at a time toward your chest as if you are marching in place. Repeat this ten times
Lie flat on your back and pull both knees toward your chest. This exercise works on your abdominal muscles to increase your core strength. This is a key component in improving balance.
One Leg Stands
Hold onto a sturdy object such as a chair or counter to keep your balance. Now lift one leg and hold it for five to ten seconds. Do the same on the other leg and repeat the exercise ten times.
Higher Intensity Training
Higher intensity training has resulted in better function for those with PD than moderate intensity. Consider including some of these exercises in your plan:
- Walk for a set distance time and include sections that range from a moderate to fast pace
- Alternate walking and jogging or jogging and sprinting
- Walk on a treadmill that lets you adjust the speed
- Alternate lying, sitting down, and standing up
- Step over objects of different heights
- Use cardiovascular training machines like bikes and Stairmasters at different speeds
Always strive to work at the highest level you can. Once again, a commitment to participating in the exercise plan is key to an optimal outcome.
The Parkinson’s Success System
The Parkinson’s Success System teaches people with PD and their caregiver’s management skills. When you enroll in this program, you’ll learn the following:
- How to improve body movement and function through specific exercises
- How to help a person with PD move around and increase their functionality
- Stretches to reduce muscle stiffness and rigidity and achieve more smooth muscle movement
- Stretches to overcome frozen muscles to increase mobility
- Strategies for managing freezing episodes in a safe manner to reduce falls
- Strategies for improving balance and body control to decrease the fear of falling
- Exercises to increase balance
This program is offered in an online format. The program provides a plan of care to help those with PD and their caregivers.
Do You Want to Feel More Control Over Your Body?
A person with PD’s level of independence can improve with balance and gait training. Master Trainer and specialist in PD, Jonathan Rose, has the knowledge and tools to help.
His Parkinson’s Success System helps individuals reduce their symptoms and move better. The training also teaches caregivers how to effectively assist with the program. You’ll get a planner to document your exercise activities and watch your progress.
We welcome you to get on the waitlist for the Parkinson’s Success System.
For more ideas on how to a person with Parkinson’s can walk better check out this article