Exercise Routines for People with Parkinson’s

Exercise Routines for People with Parkinson’s

Everyone knows that exercise is good for them, but staying active is critical for those with Parkinson's disease.

Studies have shown that early intervention training can help stall the progression of Parkinson's. But even for those in later stages, exercise is very beneficial both in the long term and for everyday quality of life. 

This quick guide is intended to help people with Parkinson’s safely begin an exercise routine.

A Few Tips Before You Begin An Exercise Program

We want you to be successful as you embark on your new fitness journey. So here are a few things to keep in mind before you begin your exercise program.

First, don't overdo it. Creating reasonable and achievable goals is crucial when you're battling a chronic illness. Doing too much too soon can lead to burnout or injury. 

Make sure you work slowly up from exercises that require light to moderate effort (e.g., walking on a treadmill or gentle yoga) to more intensive training.

Then, remember that, while tremors or other symptoms may worsen during exercise, staying active will alleviate them in the long run. However, that doesn’t mean you should “push through” if you feel pain. Always listen to your body, especially if you're exercising alone, and never be afraid to take breaks.

Finally, consult with your physician and neurologist before embarking on any brand-new exercise regime. Depending on your needs, you may also want to find a physical therapist, preferably one with expertise in Parkinson's.

Exercise Smarter, not Harder

With these warnings out the way, there are some other things you want to look for when creating an exercise regime. 

Make sure whatever form of exercise you choose addresses the four core components of a holistic exercise routine. 

  1. Aerobics: This is any exercise that gets your heart pumping (e.g., walking, swimming, cycling, dancing, etc.). It’s important because Parkinson's can affect cardiovascular conditioning.
  2. Balance: As Parkinson's heavily impacts motor control, balance training is essential for counteracting any ill effects. Balance boards can help with that. 
  3. Strength: Loss of muscle mass can severely impact the ability to perform even actions as simple as sitting or walking, so it’s essential to incorporate weights or body weight into the practice.
  4. Stretching: This is especially important combined with strength training since your muscles need to be stretched as they grow stronger.

Beyond the gym

Instead of a more traditional gym routine that might prioritize one element, look for holistic disciplines like dancing, martial arts, or yoga that incorporate all four. Choosing an exercise routine that doubles as a hobby are also beneficial in other ways. 

Learning a new discipline will push the mind and body in a very healthy way.

It will also make it easier to stick to a routine if you enjoy it! Try to avoid exercises where you feel like you're just going through the motions.

What if I have limited mobility?

Limited mobility just means you should pursue exercises that can be modified to accommodate your needs. For example, many yoga poses can be performed from a seated posture using cushioned pads and foam wedges for added comfort.

a woman wearing white shirt and leggings stretching

If you work best in groups, look for smaller class sizes, and inform the instructor of your condition. They may be able to incorporate modifications. 

You don’t need to leave the house to get a beneficial workout. Explore exercises you can do from home using simple equipment. Several apps and online courses are available, many with options for those who can't perform every exercise.

For example, many HIIT (high-intensity interval training) applications have the option to turn off movements that may be hard on joints, like jumping jacks.

Non-traditional exercises

Because of the unique effects that Parkinson's has on the body, not all traditional exercises will adequately address symptoms.

For one, Parkinson's can weaken facial muscles and affect movement size. 

To counteract this, look to add smaller daily practices to supplement your main exercise. 

Adding mouth exercises to your morning routine can also help with issues speaking and swallowing.

Lee Silverman Voice Technique (LSVT) has designed a program called LSVT-BIG that studies have shown is effective in helping those struggling with smaller movements.

Conclusion

Beginning an exercise routine can be daunting for anyone, especially people with chronic illnesses. However, a regular exercise routine can help stall Parkinson’s progression and improve day-to-day movements.

Start slow, and talk to your doctor about the best movements for your needs. Visit our library for more ideas on how to stay active and healthy.

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