Associate Feature: Physical activity can help people with Parkinson’s keep well for longer
We’re all gearing up for World Parkinson’s Day on 11 April 2023. It’s the time when our community, all over the world, unites in hope.
Hope may be an unexpected word to use in relation to Parkinson’s. It’s complex, debilitating and gets worse over time. Parkinson’s is also the fastest growing neurological condition in the world. Here in Scotland, the number of people living with the condition will have gone up by around 20% come 2039.
Yet hope is central to the lives of many people living with Parkinson’s. Better treatments will make a huge difference in the years to come. Parkinson’s UK is the leading charitable funder of Parkinson’s research in Europe and we are on the brink of real breakthroughs.
But there are also ways for people with Parkinson’s to manage their condition and feel better right now.
Physical activity is good for everyone, but it is especially important if you have Parkinson’s. There’s been quite a lot of research carried out on the role exercise can play in the management of the condition. Being active for just 2.5 hours a week can improve symptoms.
We launched the Parkinson’s Active project in Scotland, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund Scotland, to develop physical activity opportunities for people with Parkinson’s. We’ve helped facilitate sessions in everything from walking football to table tennis.
What these activities have in common is the difference they make for people with Parkinson’s. People report improvements in their condition, but also new friendships and purpose. They bring people with Parkinson’s together in hope.
Take retired senior engineer Stanley from Aberdeenshire, who is 63, and was first diagnosed nine years ago. He lives with a tremor and some limitations with his mobility.
Stanley first attended an online physical activity session during lockdown but found he gets the most enjoyment and benefit from the weekly in-person exercise class he now attends.
“I’ve noticed small but discernible differences,” says Stanley. “My posture has improved and my walking has improved. I’m also managing to get out of bed by myself, when my medication is at its low point. I used to be extremely stiff and would need help getting up.”
Stanley attributes these improvements to the class. But over and above the physical benefits, the chance to meet with other people with Parkinson’s has been vital.
“Speaking to people has made a big difference as we can all share our experiences.”
People like Stanley are the reason we are expanding this work across Scotland. We’re on a mission to deliver even more opportunities for people with Parkinson’s to become - and remain - active.
Since we first launched Parkinson’s Active, we have worked with 10 leisure trusts and trained 46 instructors, who now deliver more than 25 different exercise sessions across Scotland. Through a new partnership with Glasgow Life and the Celtic FC Foundation, we are expanding the Parkinson’s walking football programme in Glasgow. We have also supported seven new projects in Scotland to grow through our own grants programme. But we want to do even more.
Parkinson’s UK is one of a coalition of 16 leading health charities in Scotland called Movement for Health. Collectively we’re calling on the Scottish Government to improve policy and practice to enable people living with longterm conditions to become more physically active. It’s more important than ever that this call for action is heard.
We’re on the brink of delivering better medical treatments for Parkinson’s. But whatever happens in the lab or the clinic, physical activity can help people with Parkinson’s keep well for longer and puts that all-important hope in reach.
This article is sponsored by Parkinson’s UK.
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Our Parkinson’s advisers offer free and confidential support, phone 0808 800 0303
Or check our website for information parkinsons.org.uk/scotland.
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