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Exercise Improves Function, Quality of Life in People with Parkinson’s Disease

Simple movements required for daily living and physical balance can be challenging for people with Parkinson’s disease. A new study suggests a physical therapist-led exercise program may help improve patients’ balance, ability to move and quality of life. In some cases, regular exercise can lessen falls, which is a big problem for people suffering from Parkinson’s.

In the study, published December 31, 2014 in the medical journal Neurology, Australian researchers studied 231 people with Parkinson’s disease. About half received usual care. The others participated in a six-month exercise program, which included 40 to 60 minutes of balance and leg strengthening exercises three times a week. A physical therapist prescribed and monitored the exercise program, although patients did most of the exercises at home. The physical therapist supervised an average of 13 percent of the exercise sessions.

Overall, those who took part in the exercise program performed better on tests measuring movement and balance. The exercisers didn’t fear falls as much as the usual care group, and they reported better mood and quality of life.

People with less severe Parkinson’s were more likely to fall less if they exercised. In fact, there was a 70 percent reduction in falls among exercisers with less severe disease compared to those with less severe disease in the usual care group. Patients with more severe disease, however, did not seem to fall less than the other group.

According to one of the study’s authors, minimally-supervised, physical therapist led exercise programs to reduce falls in Parkinson’s patients should be started early in the disease process.

Physical therapists are trained to improve movement and quality of life among people with Parkinson’s disease. For more information about what physical therapy can do to improve and maintain balance, strength, coordination and freedom of movement, as well as help patients remain independent, contact A Physical Therapist, Inc.

A Physical Therapist, Inc., is a one-on-one physical therapy clinic in Delray Beach, Fla., and Harrisburg, Penn. For patients in Palm Beach County, A Physical Therapist, Inc., is easily accessible from Boca Raton or Boynton Beach. For patients in Dauphin County, A Physical Therapist, Inc., is easily accessible from Hershey and Marysville.

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