It’s well known that incorporating exercise into everyday life can have a crucial role in reducing the risk of a wide range of health conditions and can generally improve the quality of life. And for people with Parkinson’s disease (PD), exercise can be incredibly beneficial. We’ve taken a look into the benefits (and research) behind exercise for people with Parkinson’s disease, and which exercises are best.
The research-backed benefits behind exercise for Parkinson’s disease
Research published in the National Library of Medicine suggests that exercise can improve gait and fitness among individuals with PD, and that it gives patients a more active role in the management of their PD.
Regular exercise can also help to alleviate symptoms, reduce the risk of falls, improve mobility, and even delay progression, according to Denise Padilla-Davidson, a Johns Hopkins physical therapist.
“Movement, especially exercises that encourage balance and reciprocal patterns [movements that require coordination of both sides of your body], can actually slow progression of the disease,” she says.
It was also found that exercise may help the brain maintain neuroplasticity, which is the ability to maintain old connections and form new ones between the neurons in your brain. “The neuroplasticity created from exercise in patients with Parkinson’s disease may actually outweigh the effects of neurodegeneration,” according to Padilla-Davidson
Stanford Parkinson’s Community Outreach also noted that when you have PD, exercise is just as important as taking your medication on time every day. It helps to maintain strength, flexibility, balance and cognitive acuity so you can continue to do the things you have and want to do.
They compiled resources here to help you understand the level of research that has gone into showing the impact exercise has on PD symptoms, and how to exercise to reap the most benefits.
Safe exercises for Parkinson’s disease
There is never a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to people living with PD. The type of exercise you do will depend entirely on the type of symptoms you experience and the goals you have set.
We definitely recommend discussing exercise options and goals with your primary care provider before you start a new exercise regime. They can help guide you on safe intensity levels, recommend exercises for your individual health, refer you to a physical therapist or warn you about exercises to avoid based on your particular limitations.
But having a routine that is consistent with the right training and is relevant for you can help you see long term benefits from your exercise.
Here are some of the components to consider when building your exercise program:
Cardiovascular training, or aerobic exercise, involves activities that challenge the cardiorespiratory system (heart and lungs) such as walking, running, biking and water aerobics. It can help improve the overall capacity of your heart and lungs and, by participating in this kind of training just 3 days a week for 30-40 minutes, may slow the decline of Parkinson’s disease.
This form of exercise involves building muscle mass and strength. By participating in this training just two days a week, starting with low repetition and weight, you can help to make lifting and carrying easier.
Simple stretching exercises can help reduce muscle tightness and maintain range of motion and posture. It’s a no-stress way to exercise, and all you need is two or more days per week to see results. Stretching each major muscle group for just 30 to 60 seconds can help improve muscle length too.
Balance/agility training reduces the risk of falling, and it’s much easier to participate in this kind of training than you may think. Often, this kind of exercise often combines aerobic exercise, strength training and flexibility training, in a simple and effective way. This includes activities like dancing, gardening, golfing, water aerobics and Pilates.
But if this all sounds a little complex to you? Don’t worry, a review of studies on treadmill training showed that regular walking workouts helped increase walking speed and stride length, which tends to shorten with Parkinson’s disease. Similarly, routine daily activities that get you up and on your feet, such as washing dishes, folding laundry and even yard work, helps delay the degeneration of motor symptoms.
What kind of exercise can I do if I have trouble standing or walking?
Even with advanced Parkinson’s symptoms, you can still enjoy the benefits of exercise. Here are some simple exercise ideas for those who struggle with standing or walking:
- Hold a bar or rail to exercise and stretch
- Exercise and stretch in a chair or bed if getting up is too tough
- Physical exercise performed in a seated position can allow you to exert yourself in a safe manner
- Chew your food longer and more vigorously
- Exaggerate your face and lip movements when speaking
- Make faces in the mirror
- Sing or read out loud
- Play brain games and do puzzles
- Park further away from stores so you have to walk slightly longer distances
- Stretch or do leg exercises while watching TV
- Swing your arms more when you walk, and take exaggerated, longer strides
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator (or, take the escalator and take a few steps where you feel comfortable doing so!)
Are there any risks of exercising with Parkinson’s disease?
Some symptoms, such as tremors, may seem worse during exercise. However, exercise itself generally improves these tremors and other symptoms in the long-term. To avoid any issues, be sure to stretch before and after exercise, follow proper form, avoid slippery floors, poor lighting and tripping hazards. And if you experience any pain? Stop and rest.
Pushing yourself too hard through exercise is the main risk factor toward injury. Be sure to start slow and increase intensity and duration with time. You can even keep a log to track what you’ve participated in and how it makes you feel – eventually, you’ll learn what works best for you.
Easy Exercising and Parkinson’s disease
Easy Exercising can help recover the mobility and body shape that you had in your prime in a gentle, sweat-free way, and is a perfect option for people living with PD.
Sounds too good to be true? It’s not. The answer is that our unique, power-assisted machines do the exercise for you so that your individual, gentle program safely gets you to your goals as quickly as a bench press – without the grunting, stress or sweat.
No pain: instead, laughter and a friendly chat as you exercise.
Our machines replicate pilates movements, stimulating your body’s metabolism so that fluid retention is removed. It can help with mobility, joint pain, diabetes symptoms, post and pre-op therapy, and the symptoms of Parkinson’s.
Better yet? We welcome NDIS participants, so you never have to worry about compromising on your savings to experience incredibly beneficial results.
In general, exercise has always played a crucial role in reducing the risk of certain health conditions and improving the overall quality of life. But for those living with Parkinson’s disease, exercise can actually be incredibly beneficial to slowing the decline of this disease, managing the symptoms, and improving the quality of life.
If you’re interested in trying Easy Exercising out for size, and making exercise safe, easy and fun, contact us here to book your free trial session or discuss our NDIS programs.