Could climbing help people with Parkinson’s disease reach new heights?

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Author: Scarlett SherriffPublished: 6 October 2022

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Researchers in Vienna, Austria, have found that sport climbing may help people with Parkinson’s to “significantly” improve their posture

Ever thought of climbing for fun? According to experts, the benefits of the sport can be wide-ranging – with the potential to improve cardiorespiratory fitness, strength, balance and flexibility. Now, a new study has suggested that climbing may also offer “significant” positive effects on posture in people with mild to moderate Parkinson’s.

Because the condition affects control of automatic activities – such as reminders sent from the brain to stand up straight – people with Parkinson’s may have stooped posture. To find out whether climbing could help tackle this symptom, researchers in Vienna, Austria, conducted a 12-week study involving 46 people with the condition.

Among these participants, one group took part in sport climbing while a control group carried out a different, unsupervised exercise of their choice. Throughout the study period, members of the climbing group – who had no prior experience with the sport – conducted 90 minutes of supervised rope climbing per week.

After three months, all participants were measured in terms of forward flexion (bending) of the spine.

“There’s no burden you can’t conquer”

The results, which were presented at this year’s International Congress of Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders in Madrid, Spain, revealed that those who practiced climbing throughout the study period saw improvements in their back posture.

Based on the findings, the study authors concluded that sport climbing “significantly improves posture in mild to moderate Parkinson’s disease”.

Speaking to medical news provider ‘Medscape,’ Dr Heidemarie Zach – associate professor of neurology at the Medical University of Vienna, Austria, and an author on the study – said: “As long as you can walk independently and walk up a stair, you can go climbing. There’s no hurdle too high over which you can’t climb or burden you can’t conquer.”

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