Exercise is considered a powerful tool in managing Parkinson’s. Research suggests it may slow down disease progression. Several reasons contribute to exercise’s potential neuroprotective effects, in this case referring to the ability of an activity or intervention to protect the brain and nervous system from further damage, degeneration, or dysfunction:
  1. Neuroplasticity: Exercise promotes brain adaptability and reorganisation, helping compensate for damaged areas. 
  2. Neurotrophic factors: Physical activity increases the production of proteins that support neuronal growth, proliferation, survival, and maturation of new neurons such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). 
  3. Antioxidant effects: Exercise has antioxidant properties, which help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, potentially slowing neurodegeneration.
  4. Mitochondrial function: Exercise improves mitochondrial efficiency, which is essential for energy production in cells. It may help counteract mitochondrial dysfunction (reducing oxidative stress and inflammation) associated with Parkinson’s.
  5. Inflammation reduction: Regular physical activity has anti-inflammatory effects, which may help mitigate inflammation’s contribution to disease progression.
  6. Gait and balance: Exercise, especially exercises focusing on balance and gait, can improve motor symptoms and reduce the risk of falls.
  7. Cognitive benefits: Exercise has been shown to improve cognitive function and potentially slow cognitive decline in Parkinson’s. Exercise contributes positively to non-motor symptoms like behaviour, mood, and thinking.
  8. Dopamine release: Exercise can stimulate dopamine release, which may help compensate for the lack of dopamine that is characteristic of Parkinson’s.
While the exact mechanisms are not fully understood, exercise’s many benefits likely contribute to its potential to slow disease progression. It’s essential to note that exercise is not a cure, but it can be a powerful complementary therapy to traditional medications and treatments, helping to manage symptoms and improve quality of life for people with Parkinson’s disease.
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