Building Muscle, Confidence & Motivation for Parkinson’s Patients

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Every day, 37 people in Australia are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Despite best medical intervention, Parkinson’s patients still have a steady decline in physical function and activity. 

Research shows that exercise-based programs are beneficial to Parkinson’s patients, however long-term behaviour change is difficult to achieve.  Wesley Medical Research, in conjunction with The University of Queensland, is working to find a solution. 

Professor Sandra Brauer (Physiotherapist) and Associate Professor John O’Sullivan (Neurologist) are determined to give patients the best opportunity to slow progression of the disease by trialling a new intervention that combines exercise, self-monitoring devices and education.

“As a Physiotherapist, I have seen benefits from exercise sessions including improving patients’ walking ability and quality of life. This trial aims to address participant’s physical fitness, confidence and motivation to get going, and keep going with exercise” said Professor Brauer.

The clinical trial involves 96 patients, randomised to either usual care or the intervention group. This intervention extends previous research by using this training to explicitly improve patient’s belief they can exercise safely while providing tools and strategies to change their activity levels permanently. 

The usual care group will be monitored via questionnaires and patient interviews in combination with standard follow-up from their Neurologist and General Practitioner. 

Clinical trial patient Michael Fitzgerald in action.

The intervention participants are required to attend group exercise sessions at The Wesley Hospital over a 4-week period. Each participant will be given a Garmin VivoSmart monitoring device, enabling participants to measure their own performance via a mobile application, while providing physiotherapists with accurate data to track activity outside training sessions.  A portion of each exercise session will involve training in motivational coaching, guiding participants through the process of setting short- and long-term goals, as well as formulating action plans and coping strategies.

Specifically, the intervention has been designed to enhance participants’ motivation for engaging in physical activity by satisfying their needs for competence, autonomy and relatedness. Patient Michael Fitzgerald has just completed the four-week program and has seen great benefits both physically and emotionally. “I have seen a significant improvement in my symptoms including a reduction in the tremor in my left hand. I found that since the trial, I can comfortably hold a glass and engage in social conversation.”

If successful, this novel approach could easily be translated into clinical practice. The outcome will equip patients with the skills needed to improve their physical activity and functional ability and importantly, the ability to maintain it.

 “If you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, sign-up for this trial. I have seen real benefit from this program. It should available to everyone as part of the mainstream treatment” said Michael.  

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