Posted on May 23, 2023, 2 p.m.
Parkinson’s disease is a long-term degenerative disorder of the nervous system, those afflicted with this condition know all too well how challenging it can make everyday life. Recent research suggests an interesting way to help those with the disease to manage their symptoms; ping pong/table tennis.
Ping pong can be difficult for anyone to play, let alone someone with a disorder affecting their movements, so at first this idea may sound strange at the very least. But according to the researchers, participants with Parkinson’s disease, with an average age of 73 years old, who took part in a 5-hour-long ping pong exercise course once a week for six months experienced improvements in their symptoms.
“Ping-pong, which is also called table tennis, is a form of aerobic exercise that has been shown in the general population to improve hand-eye coordination, sharpen reflexes, and stimulate the brain,” comments study author Dr. Ken-ichi Inoue, of Fukuoka University. “We wanted to examine if people with Parkinson’s disease would see similar benefits that may in turn reduce some of their symptoms.”
Before embarking on the exercise program the participants underwent a series of testing to gauge the severity of their symptoms. Participants were also taught a series of stretches which they performed before moving onto the table tennis exercises which were taught by an experienced player, and the entire program was developed specifically for this study by the University of Fukuoka.
Participants were evaluated at the beginning of the program and were reevaluated after three months and again at the program's conclusion. According to the researchers after 3 and 6 months of the program, all of the participants displayed noticeable improvements in their speech, handwriting, getting out of bed, walking, and putting on clothing. Additionally, facial expressions, rigidity, posture, slowness of movement, and hand tremor symptoms showed improvement as well.
It was noted that one participant developed back pain and another fell while playing ping pong on one occasion, and all of the participants played table tennis, meaning that there were no controls for comparison purposes.
“While this study is small, the results are encouraging because they show ping-pong, a relatively inexpensive form of therapy, may improve some symptoms of Parkinson’s disease,” Inoue concludes. “A much larger study is now being planned to confirm these findings.”
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