According to clinical studies, there is an estimated 4 people per 1,000 in Australia who have Parkinson's disease. There are approximately 80,000 people in Australia living with Parkinson's disease, with one out of 5 diagnosed before the age of 50. Betterhealth Australia reports that Parkinson’s Disease is one of the most common neurodegenerative disorders in Australia and other parts of the world.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) or Paralysis Agitans is called “Shaking Palsy”. It is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that is characterized by both motor and nonmotor features.
Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the extrapyramidal system that includes zmotor structures of the basal ganglia and is easily characterised by the loss of dopaminergic function and diminished motor function.
Parkinsonism is a symptom complex used to describe the motor features of Parkinson’s that includes but is not limited to resting tremor, bradykinesia, and muscular rigidity.
The symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease begin insidiously and worsen gradually over time. They typically start on one side of the body, instead of bilaterally, before eventually spreading to involve the opposite side.
The most common symptom recognized by the patient is a tremor of a hand or foot when that limb is at rest. Initially, the tremor and walking difficulty may appear on one side of the body but these signs usually have spread to both sides with time.
The symptoms are but not limited to the following:
• resting/pill-rolling tremor
• loss of smell
• flexed posture, shuffling/festinating gait; unsteady posture
• difficulty in sleeping
• expressionless face
• dysarthria, hypophonia
• micrographia or small handwriting
• dementia in late stages
• freezing or the sudden inability to move
• difficulty with multitasking
• loss of volume in speech
Water-based exercise can help people with Parkinsons by improving balance, mobility, posture and many of the other debilitating symptoms associated with the disease. Exercising in the water gives people with Parkinson's disease the freedom to move without fear of falling, and enables exercise without joint stress, and strength training without the risk associated with weights.
Balance and posture: The water’s buoyancy helps in supporting weak muscles which makes it easier to balance and hold a good posture. When in the water, your body must make continual adjustments to the environment. This improves your sense of where the body is in space, enhancing balance, coordination and posture, as well as motor control.
Mobility and range of motion: As the water physically supports you, it helps prevent stress on joints and muscles and therefore mentally freeing you from the fear of falling so it’s much easier to move. This helps in increasing both range of motion and overall mobility.
Freezing: Walking on a treadmill in the water requires an exaggerated gait and carrying out a larger range of motion, that helps reduce freezing episodes. Water cycling, boxing and the structured movement in a Circuit program require coordinating the motions of the upper and lower body in the water, boosting communication between the body and brain and can help decrease episodes of freezing.
Weakened muscles: When you move in the water gentle resistance from every direction in encountered. This is helpful in building muscle strength, tone, and endurance.
Tremors: The meditative rhythm of your movements in the water help soothe muscles and relax the mind. Meanwhile, the hydrostatic pressure—the force exerted by the water on the body—reduces swelling, rigidity and pain, and boosts circulation. All these factors may help reduce tremors.
Micrographia: Is an early symptom experienced by a person suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Through working out in the water, the water's buoyancy may support weak muscles and allow the limbs to move around in a less painful manner. The resistance of the water will strengthen the hand muscles and limbs.
Constipation: Hydrostatic pressure places a gentle soothing pressure on the abdomen region and is increased with pace and various core exercises. People taking part in water exercise programs have reported that it helped their bowels to function better, according to the American Parkinson Disease Association.
Difficulty in sleeping: Sleepless nights cause a lot of stress. Water requires heavy work to move in than air due to resistance provided by water. Water can provide 12x the resistance of air and can induce fatigue when speed is added and duration is extended. Water can can stimulate biochemical changes in the brain. Moving in water requires relaxation of skeletal muscles and alternating stretch while simultaneously breathing deeply in a rhythmic pattern similar to yoga. This helps the brain be relaxed and exhausted at the same time aiding sleep and relaxation.
Spending too much time alone: Water exercise group classes are a social affair wherein the sharing of experiences and making connections with others can help lessen the feelings of social isolation and depression which is very common among people with Parkinson’s.
Depending on the stage of Parkinsons there is a range of aquatic exercise equipment that can help manage the symptoms.
A Hydrorider AquaBike is a great exercise choice for those with Parkinson’s disease in both the early and later stages. Depending on the intensity and the pace, water cycling has been shown to:
• improve overall motor function
• decrease UPDRS scores (Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale)
• reduce tremors
• reduce rigidity
• reduce freezing episodes
• improve aerobic capacity
• improve mood
• improve cognitive function
• improve coordination, balance and posture
• burn a lot of energy, relax the mind and improve sleep
Water Cycling is a safe form of movement that can be maintained even through the later stages of Parkinsons.
The Hydrorider Easyline Aqua Treadmill is also great exercise choice to reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease as underwater treadmills can:
• reduce freezing and improve gait
• decrease joint and muscle pain
• improve flexibility
• improve the quality of sleep
• enhance strength and lean mass gains when combined with resistance training
• improve balance, function and mobility
• lower joint stress caused by land exercises
Aquatic Resistance Band
A Hydrorider Riderband is a great inexpensive exercise aid to help reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease as it:
• reduces rigidity
• improves range of motion
• strengthens muscles
• targets dormant muscles
• improves flexibility
• improves coordination, balance and posture
• reduces constipation when combined with deep water core exercises
Note: Please seek medical advice before exercising & always train under the advice your medical specialist.