Huntington’s disease is a genetic condition where the nerves in your brain start to deteriorate. It can start even before you have any overt signs of Huntington’s disease. Though a large body of research has found that regular exercise can help slow the progression of Huntington’s disease. It can improve overall health as well as help to deal with the mental and emotional changes that a lot of Huntington’s disease sufferers experience.
Exercises Help Maintain Functional Abilities
For individuals who have been positively diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, the term “Functional abilities” carries significant weight. It is a broad term that encompasses a lot of everyday tasks such as getting in and out of bed, dressing yourself, and even bathing. It can also apply to larger tasks such as doing the laundry, taking care of the grocery shopping, cooking your own meals, and even managing your finances.
A lot of Huntington’s disease symptoms effectively start to reduce your quality of life. This includes both cognitive and physical impairments. Yet things like aerobic exercise paired with resistance training can help to slow down the impairments caused by the disease.”
Does Exercise Delay The Onset Of Huntington’s Disease?
Physical activities can help reduce the physical symptoms of Huntington’s disease. This includes a combination of aerobic exercise as well as resistance training. The overarching goal is to help boost your stamina, strength, and balance while maintaining or perhaps even improving your flexibility.
What Are The Best Exercises for Huntington’s Disease?
The best exercises for Huntington’s disease will depend on just how much your condition is affecting your physical abilities. If your Huntington’s disease symptoms also include chorea, which makes your muscles react in involuntary and sometimes unexpected ways, you might need to find a form of exercise without risk for slips and falls.
Consistency Is Key
As with any exercise, routine consistency is key. Getting into an exercise routine that you follow every day or a rotation of days will improve your success. It will also yield better overall health results.
Whatever your exercise preferences happen to be, the goal is to find an aerobic exercise that is moderate in intensity to help improve cardiovascular fitness while also achieving brain-protection benefits. There is an old saying in the medical community that whatever is good for the heart, is usually also good for the brain.
Your Fitness Routine Will Change
Like any exercise and fitness routine, you will likely find yourself getting into better shape at times. This will translate into the ability to run farther, or swim for longer. Yet there will be other times when your fitness needs will need to adapt as the symptoms of your Huntington’s disease progresses. There will be natural highs and lows. Expecting them, accepting them, and adapting to them will keep you engaged and realistic about the fitness goals you set.
Many people with Huntington’s disease will target preventive exercises geared toward maintaining everyday life skills or delaying the onset of physical symptoms. If you start to experience symptoms that affect your current exercise routine, you might want to change exercises. For example, if you are experiencing chorea during your cycling routine, you might want to switch to using a modified stationary bike.
As your Huntington’s disease symptoms progress, you might want to switch to exercises that are geared toward helping you navigate your home and public places. This might include things like maintaining your balance and improving your posture so you can still swallow safely.
Can Physical Therapy Help With Huntington’s Disease?
A physical therapist can test you to see if you’re at risk for falls. This can help you filter your exercise choices to your symptoms and stage of Huntington’s Disease. Your physical therapist can also make recommendations on exercises that can help address common issues such as muscle weakness, balance issues, or involuntary muscle movements, caused by dystonia and chorea.
A physical therapist can also work with you to help keep your mental functions sharp. This can include simple, but essential things like remembering the proper order for doing tasks, like standing up with your walker or approaching a chair. It often helps to break tasks down into step-by-step orders that are easy to remember and reinforce.
Depending on your symptoms, an occupational therapist might be brought in to help with other essential tasks. This includes things like dressing, putting toothpaste on the toothbrush, and meal planning or preparation.
Primary caregivers can also work with physical therapists and occupational therapists to help you stay safe as they help you. This can even include things like positional training so you don’t develop any pressure injuries. Caregivers can also help with partnered stretching for both the upper and lower body.
Active Range of Motion Exercises
Active range of motion exercises like tai chi, yoga, or Pilates classes helps maintain the cohesive relationship between the brain and the muscles. Even if you can’t attend a class in person, there are many online sessions and videos that will let you practice an active range of motion exercises from the comfort of your own home.
Tai chi and yoga are great exercises for maintaining and even improving balance. They can be tailored to your level of mobility. Just like the active range of motion exercise classes, there are many online sessions and videos that allow you to practice them from home.
Core Strengthening Exercises
Strengthening the muscles in the middle section of your torso is something everyone can benefit from. It is especially helpful for individuals who are experiencing symptoms of Huntington’s disease. A stronger core leads to better posture and positioning. It can also improve your stability when walking, standing, and sitting. Strong core muscles also help support vital activities such as breathing and eating.
Breathing & Swallowing Exercises
The challenges in the later stages of Huntington’s disease can affect your ability to breathe and swallow. Developing your aerobic endurance in advance will help you manage this progression better. You might also have trouble coordinating your breathing and sound like you’re short of breath. Practicing breathing techniques also helps with speech.