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  • Survey of Individuals With PD Shows Strong Appreciation for Exercise, Role of PT

    A recently released survey of 1,500 individuals with Parkinson Disease (PD) reveals a high level of appreciation for the importance of exercise among this population, and a fairly strong understanding—both by people with PD and physicians—of the benefits of physical therapy in treatment.

    The survey was aimed at getting the patient's perspective on exercise (.pdf) by asking a series of questions that included not only how much and how often participants exercise, but their perceptions of the benefits, views on perceived barriers to exercise, and general life satisfaction. Results are presented in aggregate and by a variety of demographic factors, as well as according to the number of years since the individual was diagnosed with PD.

    The study was created and conducted by DBS4PD, an affiliate of the Parkinson Alliance that supports the use of deep-brain stimulation (DBS). No differences in exercise data were found between DBS and non-DBS groups.

    Among the findings:

    • Among all respondents, nearly 92% reported that they participated in some form of exercise, with 59% indicating they had engaged in exercise on a "fairly regular or regular basis" throughout their adulthood.
    • Eighty-four percent of participants reported that their physician had recommended exercise.
    • When it came to physical therapy, 66% of respondents indicated that their physician had recommended seeing a physical therapist, and 62% reported that they had participated in physical therapy for treatment.
    • Nearly 9 out of 10 (87%) of participants said that exercise was "quite a bit" to "extremely" important, with nearly that number (86%) believing that an individual with PD should exercise 3 times a week or more—although they were divided as to whether each exercise session should last for 30 minutes (46%) or 45 minutes or more (40%).
    • Walking was cited as the most common form of exercise (65%), followed by strength training (33%).
    • Approximately 90% of participants reported remaining sedentary for more than 2 hours a day, with 45% to 57% reporting being sedentary for more than 5 hours a day, depending on age and PD duration.
    • Barriers to exercise included feeling too tired (61%-74%), health problems related to PD (46%-67%), and health problems not related to PD (50%-60%). Specific to PD-related motor problems, respondents reported balance problems, walking difficulties, and stiffness as major barriers.

    In its summary of the findings, DBS4PD urges individuals with PD to consult with a physical therapist.

    "Asking the doctor for a referral to a physical therapist can help people with PD get started on an effective exercise program," survey authors write. "A physical therapist can help design or modify exercises to facilitate successful participation."

    APTA offers several resources on the role physical therapy can play in the treatment of PD, including a PT's Guide to Parkinson Disease and evidence-based practice research that can be accessed through PTNow. Looking for continuing education on the role of the PT in PD? Check out a 4-module series APTA produced in partnership with the Parkinson Disease Foundation (module 1, module 2, module 3, module 4).

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