We started this article a little while back. And now we’re back to finish it up! If you’re following along in the article, we’ll be starting in the “Exercise and brain health” section.
Summary of what exercise does for a healthy brain:
— grows new brain cell connections
— makes your brain more efficient at using energy
— grows new brain cells
— grows new blood vessels to get nutrients to the new brain cells more efficiently
— reduces inflammation
— decreases oxidative stress (which is makes cancer cells grow)
— stabilizes calcium levels in the brain which is essential for the brain cells to communicate correctly and efficiently
— enhanced thinking, learning and memory abilities
— makes brain cell support cells grow (they help keep the brain cells healthy)
— changes the level of neurotransmitters in the brain (Neurotransmitters are like interoffice mail. They’re how the brain cells talk to each other.)
— grows new connections between brain cells
Wow wowie wow! That’s a lot of bang for your buck! BUT we’re talking what happens to brains that have Parkinson when their human exercises. There’s not a ton of research out there at the time of the article. But what we do know about what happens when brains with Parkinson exercise is this:
Exercising is neuroprotective of the Parkinson brain. This means that exercise can slow, stop or reverse the motor symptoms of Parkinson. There are things that play into the results are age, type of exercise (skilled–practicing a skill, like basketball– vs. purely aerobic– gets you heart pumping fast, like running, cycling, etc.), how extensive the loss of brain cells is. Also, high stress and stopping the exercise may decrease or reverse the benefits once you gain the above benefits. It’s looking like a combo of skilled and aerobic type of activities is better than picking one or the other to get the neuroprotection.
The other kicker in the research is that brains with Parkinson get worse when their humans stop moving their bodies. So the motor symptoms can create a snowball effect. You start showing signs like tremors, bradykinesia (slow movements), and that festinating (shuffling) walking. So then because your body is fighting you and it’s embarrassing to have to fight it, you scale back the activities you participate in. Maybe you quit volunteering as a door greeter at church, because you are tired of explaining the tremors to every new guest that comes in the door. So you take up being a pew warmer. You’ve lost the activity of standing for long periods of time. So now the bradykinesia gets worse, because you aren’t challenging your body to move quick enough to get a bulletin in the hands of a large group that comes through the door quickly.
And the best news yet: exercise can even improve the motor symptoms associated with Parkinson disease. In fact, there is evidence that not only can the symptoms improve, it may be possible to get to a level that is comparable to people that do NOT have Parkinson disease. EVEN BETTER, it’s possible obtain the same level of skill with a motor activity as person who doesn’t have Parkinson that also been trained in that activity. Which tells me that getting a person with Parkinson to fully recover and say, run a 5K isn’t a totally ridiculous goal. It all depends on how motivated that human who has a brain with Parkinson is! To get these kinds of results, progressive (guided) high intensity, long duration and task-specific practice would be required. Meaning if your goal is to be able to play basketball with your kids, you’ll need to work long and hard and practice basketball a lot! There isn’t yet a specific protocol as all this research has currently been in a mouse with Parkinson model, not yet in humans. So take it all with a grain of salt.
In summary, JUST MOVE IT, MOVE IT!