Exercising for a fit and healthy brain

Dr Kieran Breen Last week I was at the Movement Disorder Society's 13th International Congress of Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders in Paris, along with 4,500 other researchers from around the world.

There were lots of reports from researchers, sharing information and hope from different studies and trials around the world. But one thing that really stood out to me was a session from Carl Cotman, a researcher from the US who showed that exercising actually changes the way the brain works.

Parkinson's is all about the brain - dopamine-producing brain cells die, causing the symptoms - and as the cells keep dying, so the condition progresses. People with Parkinson's are also at a much higher risk of dementia, which means anything to keep the brain 'fit' can only be a good thing.

Carl's work put rats on treadmills and tested them in mazes. Rats who exercised had better memory and learning! And now there are studies underway in the Netherlands that take this breakthrough further, testing if exercise for people with Parkinson's could slow the progression of the condition.

The Parkinson's Disease Society's special interest group SPRING is holding a conference in September this year to bring researchers together to explore how exercise can be used as a 'treatment' for Parkinson’s in the same way that medication is used now. Maybe there will even be a section on how Nintendo Wii can help Parkinson's!

If you have found that exercising helps your Parkinson's, please let us know as we'd love to hear from you.

Dr Kieran Breen is Director of Research and Development at the Parkinson's Disease Society


Anonymous said...

It might be worth somebody contacting Nintendo to design an excercise game specificly targeted at people with movement difficulties

Anonymous said...

i find jubilation from exercise have done all my life. Never without a ball to play with. i love sport watching rugby union & Tennis Wimbledon being my Mecca I play tennis to club standard love walking, and a challenge, positive mental attitude focus. you hear all the pros mantra this, but i am a firm beliver in PMA. I am in early stages of Pd, and scared stiff that one of the things to get me out of bed every morning ie doing exercise to stoke up my endorphins (happy brain cells) are or will be stolen from me thanks to Parkinsons disease. This saddens me, at the moment i can fight it im young enough at 49 to focus , mind over matter! Although aches and pains let you know your not the player you used to be, that hurts. But age comes into that too! One things for sure at the momment being active helps my Pd symptoms. But will it be a case of you can run but cant hide.

Anonymous said...

My husband,77, diagnosed at 65, was advised to get a dog. We did, a dog needs walking every day rain or shine. My husband walks this dog almost every day for at least 3 miles, his stride has shortened over the years but is still good enough. I am sure the dog has helped slow down the progress of Parkinsons. Suffolk

Anonymous said...

l have had parkinsons for about 4 yrs but kneew it was pd before dianosis. l would love to exercise but my right leg and hip hurt so much I can't do any only a few stretches.even standinf for a whi;e is painful,i see aphysio next week hopefully sshe can helCan anyone out their offer me dvice

Dr Kieran Breen said...

It's really important to find an activity that you enjoy and feel safe doing. We hear about people with Parkinson's doing all sorts of exercise - tango dancing, yoga, pilates, aqua aerobics, tai chi, Wii-fit - the list is endless. Different things work for different people and it's best to discuss the suitability or safety of the exercise you want to try with your doctor or physiotherapist.

You may find inspiration and advice on our Health and Wellbeing discussion forum.

Anonymous said...

I work as a site manager which involves a lot of walking around a Building site, and also involves climbing a lot of ladders and stairs. I recently had an operation on my knee which caused me to take a month off work, my wife and i both noticed that while i was off from work and not getting the excersize that my Parkinson's symptoms got worse. Also for the first couple of years after starting the medication i would constantly fall asleep as soon as i walked in from work.

I was given a Nintendo Wii for Christmas 2 years ago and now every night i play a round of golf on Tiger Woods 2010. I feel so much better, in fact my wife described it as "Living with a Zombie" when i fell asleep at 6pm every night, now its my wife who falls asleep before me every night.

Anonymous said...

I am a 64 year old retired female diagnosed with PD 3 years ago. As a result of doing Body Pump & Pilates classes 4 or 5 times a week, I am absolutely convinced that they help to delay the disease symptoms. I take one Mirapexin 2.62mg slow release tablet daily and I can honestly say that I have never had what I hear other people describe as a "off" day. As a bonus, this mix of classes can totally reshape your physique if you push yourself. I hope this post is of interest & inspirational to fellow PD sufferers and researchers.

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