We already know the positive difference that physiotherapy can make to people living with Parkinson’s disease. Regular exercise has long been recognised as a powerful tool to help improve mobility, posture and balance. Research by Lord and colleagues 2013 and Van Nimwegan 2011 indicate that at diagnosis, people with Parkinson’s disease are already 30 percent less active than their non-Parkinson’s age matched peers.
PD Warrior is an exercise based rehabilitation programme developed in Australia for individuals with mild to moderate idiopathic Parkinson’s disease.
Earlier this year, I completed Levels 1 and 2 of the PD Warrior course which included theoretical concepts, clinical evidence supporting the PD Warrior approach and practical exercises. Throughout the course we were joined by some wonderful volunteers with Parkinson’s disease and we spent time carrying out assessments to establish key areas on which they needed to focus. These included balance, fine motor skills, dual tasking and freezing of gait. We encouraged them to establish some goals. Each volunteer was then taught their individualised exercise programme. To complete the day we all experienced a PD Warrior circuit together which was hard work but great fun!
The PD Warrior approach to exercise incorporates 7 key principles which are thought to drive neuroplastic changes within the brain, aiming to slow down the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
These key principles are:
- High Effort, exercising at a recommended 8/10 effort level
- High Power, focusing on strong, large amplitude movements
- Frequency, where daily exercise is recommended
- Specificity, where the exercises tailored to each individual
- Meaningful, with exercises aimed at improving a functional task or helping to achieve a goal
- Complex – increasingly complex and adding dual tasks to the basic exercises
- Fun – ideally in a group setting
The other large element of the PD Warrior programme is educating, encouraging and motivating each individual to create long term behavioural change with regards to regular exercise. PD Warrior also offers an online community and support.
It is clear from reading the feedback from existing PD Warriors that this approach, although hard work, can empower individuals not to let Parkinson’s take control of their lives.
I look forward to applying these concepts with our valued clients at heads up.