Exercise can help everyone stay healthy and feel their best. For people with Parkinson’s, exercise offers important additional benefits. Getting regular exercise can reduce motor symptoms of Parkinson’s, slow the progression of the disease, and improve mood. A regular exercise routine can also help protect against the development of Parkinson’s in those who may be at risk.
What does it involve?
Always check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen. Consider consulting with a physical therapist to develop a customized exercise plan. Most types of exercise can be adapted to accommodate those with Parkinson’s.
People with any stage or severity of Parkinson’s Disease can benefit from exercise. Doctors and researchers agree that the more exercise you do, the more benefit you will receive from the activity. Research also indicates that the more intensely you exercise, the better. When you exercise, do it intensely enough that your heart beats faster and you are breathing hard.
Whatever type of exercise you choose, follow these general safety guidelines. Always begin your workout session with a gradual warm-up and take time to cool down afterward. Warming up and cooling down will help prevent sore or pulled muscles. Exercise should be somewhat challenging, but never a struggle. Stay hydrated with plenty of cool liquids, choosing beverages without caffeine.
It is important to choose a type of exercise you will enjoy. Consider joining a dance class, boxing class, or yoga class to keep you motivated and incorporate social aspects. Aerobic exercise can take many forms. Walking on a treadmill, riding a stationary or recumbent bike, climbing stairs, or swimming can all provide effective exercise. Resistance training such as lifting weights can be done seated, and it can involve as light a weight as you are comfortable lifting. Even small amounts of weight or resistance – for instance, lifting your arms or legs repeatedly against gravity – provide benefits. Be creative. Activities such as gardening and walking a pet can help you stay active and healthy.
It is important not to become discouraged early on when beginning an exercise regimen. At first, try to exercise for 10 minutes each day. As you become accustomed to the activity, exercise for longer periods every day. Focus on finding ways of staying active that are safe, enjoyable and easy to do regularly. If you experience new or worse Parkinson’s symptoms or side effects from medications, adjust your workout program to keep it safe and rewarding.
Regular, intense exercise has also been proven to help protect against the development of Parkinson’s Disease. Some neurologists recommend that people who have relatives with Parkinson’s maintain a rigorous exercise routine to decrease their risk.
Exercise can help you achieve and maintain your best physical and psychological condition. A regular exercise regimen can reduce Parkinson’s symptoms such as tremor, gait, coordination, flexibility, and grip strength. Exercise might protect your brain from disease progression. Regular exercise can help you avoid falls and recover more quickly. Physical exercise can increase strength, promote healthy weight, stave off heart disease and osteoporosis, and improve your mood and self-esteem.
An article published in 2014 studied exercise in 4,866 people with Parkinson’s Disease. After one year, participants who exercised regularly showed better quality of life, less cognitive decline, improved mobility, function, and mood, and less burden for caregivers.
Some medication side effects, such as drowsiness, dizziness, and nausea, can make it difficult to stay motivated to keep up with exercise.
If you exercise too hard, you may feel more pain than usual for a day or two afterward. Soreness is a sign that you should take it a little easier next time. If one type of exercise does not work for you, consider trying another.