Why is exercise so important?
People with PWS are born with reduced muscle tone (which affects muscle contraction), less muscle and weaker muscles than non-affected people. Strong muscles are important for good movement and the protection of joints, ligaments and tendons.
People with PWS are born with more fat cells, than non-affected people. This means it is much easier to gain fat and harder to “burn fat” through daily energy expenditure. The more muscle a person has the greater their potential for more “fat-burning” or energy expenditure.
When people are on restricted energy intake menus, as needed by people with PWS, muscle is often reduced as well as fat. People with PWS need to protect against muscle loss and this is only done through exercise.
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What can exercise do for people with PWS?
When we exercise we use the energy stored in our body as fat and (glycogen in our muscles) from the food we eat.
Inceased Energy Expenditure
Energy expenditure(metabolic rate) is naturally reduced in people with PWS, due to their reduced muscle. Exercise increases daily energy expenditure, while exercising, as well as in the post exercise period. Without exercise our metabolic rate remains at a resting level, which is lower in people with PWS
Increased Blood Flow
Blood flow is increased with exercise. As we exercise our heart pumps out more blood carrying oxygen to every cell in our body, including our brain cells. Alertness improves as increased levels of oxygen reach our brain, through exercise. Hands and feet become warmer when exercising as blood flow is increased. This is important in PWS as peripheral blood vessels in the arms have been seen to be smaller than in non-affected people. Increased blood flow reduces high blood pressure and exercises our heart and lungs to keep them healthy. Symptoms of sleep apnoea are improved with exercise. Lymphodema is reduced through leg exercise, as the calf muscle works to pump fluid from the cells.
Bone Density & Strength
Bones are protected by weight, strong muscles and exercise. It is important for people with PWS to maintain a healthy weight, but if the weight is good, mainly due to strict dietary management then bones can be at risk if the person does not have strong muscles or is not exercising regularly. Weight bearing exercise impacts on bone to increase bone density and bone strength. Strong muscles also impact on bone to increase bone density and bone strength
Endorphin (happy hormones) release is increased through exercise. Not only does exercise improve the mood of people with PWS due to the increase of our “happy hormones”, it also improves their self-esteem as they accomplish the set exercise task. Regular exercise provides a period of positive structure to the day.
Diabetic & Insulin Control
Exercise naturally improves the body’s sensitivity to insulin. This is very important for people with diabetes, as the increased action of the insulin will lower high blood glucose levels and improve a person’s diabetic control.
What is effective exercise?
Effective exercise works you! It increases your breathing rate, makes your heart beat faster and may cause sweating. By having your person with PWS walk, cycle, swim, dance or similar at an intensity that produces a “working” level they will improve their fitness, gain muscle, lose fat and have an improved mood.
Exercising specific muscle groups will strengthen muscles and increase the number of muscle fibres to build bigger muscles. These exercises can be done with weights to have a better effect on strength. They are repetitive movements of the muscle. As the muscle becomes stronger the number of repetitions is increased.
To improve the fitness of our heart and lungs as well as “burn” fat, exercise must be of an aerobic nature. When exercising aerobically we take in more oxygen and use large muscle groups, usually involving the whole body for a continual movement. Examples of aerobic exercise are walking or dancing or swimming or cycling.
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