As I write, the weather is atrocious. I hope by the time you read this we are looking back on a summer of BBQs and picnics.
When you come to see Dr Jackson or me, we often urge you to walk. What is so good about walking regularly? I used to think that walking was not strenuous enough to benefit health and wellbeing but there is evidence to the contrary. In one study a group of people were told to walk briskly for 30 minutes three to five times a week. This could be done in 10-minute blocks with rests in between. After 12 weeks, they were compared with a control group of people of a similar age who were inactive.
Walkers showed improvements in fitness, blood pressure, and lost about an inch off their waist. But it’s not all about physical health. In another study, middle-aged and elderly inactive people were divided into two groups.
The first were told to walk at their own pace for 40 minutes three times a week. The others were given stretching and toning exercises. After a year, the walkers had improved cognition, especially in things like: planning, scheduling, dealing with ambiguity and multi-tasking.
These studies were carried out in people without Parkinson’s. However, there is mounting evidence that regular exercise is an essential part of managing the disease in people with Parkinson’s. One study suggests that exercising helps the brain to maintain pathways that send automatic messages to the body, form new ones and restore old ones. This could actually slow down the progression of the condition.
When we issue prescriptions for medication for Parkinson’s, we should perhaps write prescriptions for exercise too! Exercising regularly is as important as taking medication.