What exercises are good for Parkinson’s disease?

The University of California also say that weight training is not the best choice for people with PD, although strengthening exercises do have value.

Strengthening exercises that are alternatives to weight training include:

  • pushing up to rise onto the toes
  • modified squats
  • repeatedly getting up from and sitting in a chair
  • wearing weights on the ankles and wrists at home or on a walk
  • push-ups or wall push-ups

Swimming is a good exercise for coordination, but it does not require balance. As such, it may not be the best exercise for people with PD.

The ideal time for someone with PD to exercise is when their mobility is best, which is often around an hour after they have taken their medication. This can vary, however, so every individual will have to work out when their mobility is at its best.

Exercise tips for PD

Senior woman outdoors exercising with weight dumbbells.

Be safe

Before someone with PD begins a new exercise program, they should speak with their neurologist, doctor, and physical therapist about what would be the best for them individually.

Use a pedometer

Also known as a step counter, this will tell the person how many steps they take on an average day. They can then work their way upwards from there.

Consistency

The best way for people with PD to see benefits from exercise is to do it on a consistent basis. People with PD who have been on exercise programs for 6 months or more have shown significant gains in comparison with those who do shorter programs.

Greater intensity, greater benefit

People with PD should exercise, as often as possible, for as long as possible. The amount they can do will vary, depending on their symptoms, but the general rule is that the more the person does, the more they will benefit.

Integration and variation

People with PD can start to add exercise to their lives with minor changes, such as:

  • walking instead of driving whenever possible
  • climbing stairs instead of taking an elevator
  • avoiding long periods of being inactive

Also, varying the exercises and where they are, for example, indoor or outdoor, will not only help PD symptoms but also ease boredom and increase motivation.

Cool down

Allowing a proper cool down slowly decreases the heart rate and stops the muscles from becoming stiff. A proper warm-up and doing stretches are also vital for this.

Have fun

Enjoyment of exercise will make it easier to undertake. Group activities, including exercise classes, are often beneficial for this.

When to see a physical therapist

When someone is first diagnosed with PD, they should also have an appointment with a physical therapist to work out an exercise program tailored to them.

All people with PD should ideally have an exercise program for their individual needs. Seeing a physical therapist will help them avoid risks, get advice about their specific type of PD, and give them confidence.

As the disease progresses, a person should continue to meet with the physical therapist to maximize the benefits from their exercise program by changing it whenever necessary.

Takeaway

There are so many benefits of exercise for people with PD. Those with the condition should speak with their doctor or an advisory group to work out a specific program to help them start or maintain an exercise program.

It is also helpful to find out more information about the many PD-specific exercise classes going on throughout the country. There may be a group nearby that someone can link with for advice and support.

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