We already know that exercise is a key contributor to a healthy lifestyle overall, but for those with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) this is no exception! In fact, exercise is extremely critical for people with PD, and research shows that participating in an exercise program can not only help to maintain balance and mobility, but can also slow the progression of the disease, and improve many of its symptoms! Establishing an exercise routine early on in diagnosis is key for PD management, but for any fitness level or disease stage, just getting up and moving is helpful.
Common symptoms of PD include tremors, rigidity, slowed movement, and balance and coordination impairment. Those symptoms coupled with the fatigue, muscle weakness and low power that people with PD frequently exhibit have the power to greatly affect day to day life, but they don’t have to.
It is recommended by The American College of Sports Medicine and The Parkinson’s Foundation that individuals with PD participate in 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise per week. For the greatest benefit, exercise should be intentional, and you should look to include cardiovascular endurance, strength/resistance, balance, and flexibility exercises into a training program. Together, these modalities create a comprehensive fitness regimen and will help reduce the risk of falling and improve the ability to perform activities of daily life – like getting dressed, reaching for an object, or standing up from a chair.
Where to Start:
- Safety First! Always consult your doctor before starting an exercise program.
- Pick exercises that you will enjoy! It doesn’t matter how “great” your program is if you don’t plan to stick to it. The most important thing is to make sure you exercise regularly, so try to have a little fun while you’re at it!
- Consider joining a group exercise class! Joining in on Parkinson’s specific classes will offer you added motivation, support and socialization with others who also have PD. Additionally, you will receive instruction and any necessary modifications from trained experts.
- Exercise at an intensity that feels like a challenge.
Still unsure of how to start exercising with Parkinson’s Disease? Starting, or restarting, an exercise program alone can be intimidating, and with PD requiring some special considerations it can be even more difficult to truly know where to begin. There are numerous benefits associated with working with a qualified fitness professional – ideally a fitness professional who has an educational background and experience working with PD – that span far beyond added motivation and accountability. Working with an educated and credentialed professional is essential in properly progressing exercises, reducing risk of injury, and maximizing effectiveness for all individuals, but especially those with unique needs. Qualified professionals can not only advise you on where and how to start, but will also be able to progress you accordingly, and adapt your exercise program to meet your individual needs. They will be able check and correct your form, while also educating you on which muscles are being targeted, and why that is important in maintenance and slowing of your PD progression so that you can continue to perform daily tasks and activities.