What are the benefits of resistance training on Parkinson’s Disease?

One of the defining characteristics of Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is altered and impaired muscular function, such as slowed movements, impaired posture, and a shuffling walking pattern. This is due to the gradual degeneration of nerve cell functions that assist with muscle movement, strength, and coordination. However, evidence has shown that participation in resistance training can have a positive impact on PD. We’ll discuss these benefits and how they can help PD soon, but first, let’s talk about resistance training and what it involves!

What is resistance training?

“Resistance training” encompasses any form of exercise where the muscles exert force against a load or resistance, which typically include using your own body weight, resistance bands, or traditional weights. Consistent engagement with resistance training can result in improvements to the size, strength, and endurance of the muscles being worked. However, the body must be continuously challenged as it adapts to the resistances being used. This is known as “progressive overload” and is one of the key principles that underpins continued improvements from resistance training. 

How can resistance training help Parkinson’s Disease?

Studies have shown that consistent participation in resistance training can help to improve muscle strength, movement coordination, balance, and reduce slowed movement in PD. These improvements can improve physical function, which may improve quality of life. This is due to several factors. Resistance training increases the size of the muscles, and regular training can increase the electrical signals travelling to these muscles, which means that not only will the muscles increase in strength, but they will be able to work more effectively too. Additionally, resistance training can result in increased dopamine production. This is important since dopamine plays a critical part in the nervous system by helping to send messages between nerve cells. PD results in less dopamine being available, which hinders nervous system communication and can result in physical symptoms such as slowed movement. So, by increasing dopamine production through exercise, it can help to improve these chemical message transmissions, which may help to improve physical function. 

Should I be doing resistance training?

There is a lot of evidence for the benefits of resistance training on PD by improving physical and muscular outcomes! As with any activity, there are risks with resistance training, however performing exercise under the guidance or supervision of an exercise specialist, such as an Accredited Exercise Physiologist, can help to minimise the risks and help to create an individualised program for you to maximise benefits! This can also be helpful if you have never participated in an exercise program before. So, if you’re interested in trying resistance training, speak to your GP first, or contact an Exercise Physiologist prior to starting a resistance program. 

Written by Mitch Abagi

References

Chung C. L., Thilarajahm, S., & Tan, D. (2016). Effectiveness of resistance training on muscle strength and physical function in people with Parkinson's disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Clin Rehabil, 30:11–23.


David, F. J., Rafferty, M. R., Robichaud, J. A., Prodoehl, J., Kohrt, W. M., Vaillancourt, D. E., & Corcos, D. M. (2012). Progressive resistance exercise and Parkinson's disease: a review of potential mechanisms. Parkinson’s disease, 2012.


de Moraes Filho, A. V., Chaves, S. N., Martins, W. R., Tolentino, G. P., Homem, R. D. C. P. P., de Farias, G. L., ... & de Oliveira, R. J. (2020). Progressive resistance training improves bradykinesia, motor symptoms and functional performance in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Clinical interventions in aging, 15, 87.