A new programme, supported by grant funding from Parkinson’s UK, uses a different approach to help people manage the condition.
4D Life is an evidence-based support programme for people living with Parkinson’s created by a remedial personal trainer, a neurological physiotherapist and a registered dietitian.
The programme is split into four dimensions:
1. Movement covers cardiovascular training, strength training, mobilisation, stretching and walking
2. Nutrition follows the research to look at what to eat, what not to eat, when to eat, supplements and water
3. Function covers balance, digestion, breathing, posture, core, dual-tasking, skill acquisition and gait cycle
4. Lifestyle looks at sleep, stress, anxiety, inactivity, planning, non-medicinal drugs and getting motivated.
The programme walks people through the process of making a small change, feeling a benefit, building on the benefit to make another change, and so on, until they find a balance that works for them as an individual.
Nick Berners-Price, managing director, explains the reasoning behind the programme.
“I’ve been a personal trainer for nearly 30 years now, for the last 20 years working mostly with people with medical conditions,” he says.
“Again and again I’ve seen that by combining the benefits of many small improvements, significant results can be achieved in managing symptoms and improving outcomes.
“The evidence tells us that there are many potential ways to improve Parkinson’s symptoms and even slow condition progression. From balance training to sleep management, exercise to food, skill acquisition to dual-tasking. One recent study by Penn State and Harvard Universities provided the strongest evidence to date that diet quality and regular physical exercise combined can help improve symptoms associated with Parkinson’s (https://www.4dlife.org/research/)
“And of course, how we feel comes down to so much more than one condition. There are all those things that just make us feel better, whether they directly affect Parkinson’s or not – better breathing, better posture, less processed food.
“Low levels of Dopamine in the body can make it harder to feel positive or happy, increasing propensity to feeling apathetic or anxious. Often, especially if we have a neurological condition, we have to get to the results through the domino effect.
“One small step forward (a daily walk, a healthier dinner, better breathing or better sleep management) leading to feeling a little better and having a little more energy. Using that energy to implement another small step forward, and then another, until many small changes to daily habits have led to huge improvements in condition and well-being.
“I understand this only too well. I’ve had Multiple Sclerosis for 16 years and this is exactly how I manage my condition.
“My team, including a specialist neurological physiotherapist and a registered dietitian, have created an online programme, called 4D Life, specifically for people with early or mid-stage Parkinson’s. We’ve been supported by grant funding from Parkinson’s UK and are very proud of working in partnership with them, as well as being supported by Cure Parkinson’s and The European Parkinson’s Therapy Centre.
“Diagnosis is not the end, it can be a new beginning, but people need help to find their way through. Everybody has to make a choice as to how much time and effort they put into maintaining health and managing their condition, versus getting on with life and following their dreams. This is such an important balance and it’s different for everybody.
“But the easier it is to make changes that improve your condition, the more you are likely to make. What we’ve done in the 4D Life programme is pull together all of the elements that can help (outside of medication) and made it as easy as possible for people to find the balance that works best for them.”
The programme can be accessed through www.4Dlife.org from anywhere in the UK for a membership subscription of £12.75 every four weeks.
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