Living with Parkinson's

Exercise

Exercise is Medicine

For people with Parkinson’s disease, exercise is medicine. A vital component to maintaining balance, mobility and activities of daily living. Not only is starting an exercise program important but what you do and how you do it is essential for achieving good outcomes in PD. Exercise that targets symptoms and optimizes physical function are key. As always, consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program.

Scientific research findings suggest that exercise is important for the health of all of us, and for those with a diagnosis of PD, may help protect the brain and even restore lost functions. Exercise has been shown to slow the degeneration of brain cells and lead to strengthening, repair and formation of new neural circuitry.

Essential elements for optimal results include:

  • Ongoing. Frequent (suggested 5 days/week) exercise to optimize function.
  • Complex: Multi-tasking motor and cognitive activities that require a high level of concentration or attention.
  • Intense. High intensity promotes opportunity for neuro restoration.
  • Specific. Practice your points of weakness (deficits). Help the brain re-wire and relearn tasks.
  • Salient. Activities that are meaningful and goal based, social, fun and rewarding.

Progressive Aerobic Training

Exercise that is defines as vigorous and sustained, pushing yourself to work harder than you think you can. An intensity level that pushes you to a point that it becomes difficult to carry on a conversation is ideal (65-85% maximum heart rate). This leads to improved cardiorespiratory fitness, improved cognitive function, improved sleep, decreased constipation, decreased fatigue, increase stamina.

Aerobic training might include activities such as walking, running, high intensity interval training, group classes, swimming and bicycling.

Strength Training

Strength training is useful for improving balance, posture, and of course, strength. Be sure to include work that addresses the extensor muscles (triceps, hips and back) to improve rigidity and posture. Common areas of weakness seen in Parkinson’s include flexor and extensor muscles of the truck, neck, hip, knees and ankles.

Hand weights and some weight machines can help you reach your strength training goals, as will some exercises that rely on your own body weight for resistance.

Agility

Agility training is frequently incorporated into training plans for people with PD because it is so good at addressing issues like stamina, cognition, coordination, and ability to turn without freezing or falls. Agility training can take on many forms, and your instructor will likely vary the activities for you. Activities to help your agility can include obstacle courses, agility ladders, walking in all directions, stepping over items, non-contact boxing, and dancing.

Flexibility and Stretching

A hallmark symptom of Parkinson’s is stiffness and rigidity of muscles – which impacts movement. Incorporating regular flexibility training into your routine can help minimize impact and support better posture. balance, and overall movement. Consider activities such as yoga, dynamic stretching, Pilates, and Chi Qong.

Consistency Matters

When you are just starting out anything new – sometimes it helps to break the activity into chunks. (It also helps if it is enjoyable and you see results.) Exercise is no different. Getting started is often the hardest step. Look for a program that is convenient and which addresses all of the elements described above. Build your comfort level, then expand your options and extend your program and intensity on a weekly basis. 

Many people find that one class or program doesn’t attend to all their needs, so they mix it up with other offerings, or supplement with activities done at home. To explore exercise classes in your region check our calendar and filter by region and activity – keeping in mind that your community may have many additional options that are appropriate as well.

Have a question?

Finding an exercise program that is right for you might take a couple of tries – but keep at it! Your health and wellness are worth it. If you have specific needs, or don’t find a program in your community, contact us. We can help with the search and possibly offer options.

Have a question?

Finding an exercise program that is right for you might take a couple of tries – but keep at it! Your health and wellness are worth it. If you have specific needs, or don’t find a program in your community, contact us. We can help with the search and possibly offer options.