Parkinson’s disease is a chronic and progressive neurological disorder affecting how the nervous system produces and uses dopamine, a chemical in the brain. This illness causes muscle tremors, stiffness and balance problems, difficulty walking, and other motor symptoms. Parkinson’s disease can eventually cause severe disability.
But, many people with PD can live normal, active lives for many years with the proper treatment or Parkinson’s disease medications. While medicines have proven helpful to some patients, others benefit more from exercise programs. These exercises are for people with Parkinson’s and are modified to meet patients’ needs.
This article aims to provide information on what exercises are best if you have Parkinson’s disease (PD).
Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms
PD symptoms may vary from person to person, but they generally start with tremors that become more frequent over time. The severity of these tremors depends on how much dopamine your brain produces naturally and how this disease has done much damage. The symptoms may develop slowly over time and may include the following:
Slow movement (Bradykinesia)
Problems with balance and gait (walking)
Rigid limbs and joints
Tremors, or episodes of involuntary muscle shaking
Trouble speaking or swallowing
Exercise Among The Parkinson’s Disease Treatment Options
Everyone can benefit from regular exercise and is advised to engage in physical and mental activity. However, those with Parkinson’s disease should focus mainly on staying active. Exercise helps you maintain your ability to execute everyday tasks and protects your brain cells.
Physicians often recommend it as a holistic approach or a treatment for Parkinson’s disease. According to scientists, the beneficial effects associated with working out are related to two distinct brain alterations that happen when you exercise:
Development and modification of one’s cortical striatum (an area of the brain that controls one’s voluntary movements)
Release of dopamine (positively affects how you move, feel, and perceive pain)
Additional benefits of working out in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease include:
Improves strength and balance
Helps with depression and anxiety
It helps with sleep quality
Enhances one’s quality of life
Improves overall balance and coordination
Exercises For People With Parkinson’s Disease
There’s no one-size-fits-all when finding the ideal type of exercise or Parkinson’s disease treatment options for people living with it. Choosing a safe, enjoyable, and effective exercise regimen is crucial.
The American Academy of Neurology recommends that adults with PD do at least 30 minutes per day or more each week of healthy activities, such as walking or gardening. If you’re feeling well enough to walk, try doing so at least four times a week. Alternatively, you can consider finding another form of movement that keeps your heart rate up (like swimming).
Parkinson’s patients should try to incorporate these four types of exercise into their lives:
1. Balance Exercises
Maintaining balance is crucial to prevent or lower the risk of falling. Stability can be improved through balance and mobility workouts in addition to regular weight training to strengthen one’s muscles.
One of the main objectives of balance exercises is to prevent falls. The ideal balance exercises for you will be determined by seeing a physical therapist. Physical therapists will help you improve your balance by engaging in workouts that strengthen your ankles and enhance your body’s capacity to “catch itself.”
Some examples include:
This is a Chinese exercise that involves slow movements and focuses on improving coordination between mind and body connection. A study showed that engaging in Tai Chi at least twice a week improves strength and balance. It’s also known for its stress-relieving benefits, an important part of managing the condition.
This is another fun way to get moving without stretching yourself too far. According to research, there’s an association between PD and depression. That’s why it’s important for those living with the condition to engage in activities that help improve their mental wellness. Dancing improves balance and gait and is a fun activity that’ll boost your mood!
2. Aerobic Endurance Activities
Aerobic exercise involves continuous, rhythmic motions that raise one’s heart rate over time. This is good for one’s health, as shown by a study relating aerobic exercise to improved gait, balance, and movement in people living with PD.
Aerobic Endurance activities have been shown to boost several characteristics of motor function and fitness overall. According to physicians, people with Parkinson’s disease can benefit most from aerobic exercise at a moderate to intense level.
According to one study, exercising for 30 to 45 minutes, up to three times weekly, “had an impact similar to that of numerous conventional Parkinson’s medicines” for patients with low symptom severity. Examples of aerobic workouts include:
Cardiovascular exercises like walking, jogging, or even running
Water aerobics (swimming)
Stationary bike riding at the gym or cycling
3. Flexibility Routines Or Stretching
Stretching and flexibility exercises, which help counteract the muscle rigidity associated with Parkinson’s disease, should be the first step in any exercise regimen, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation. More flexible people typically find it easier to perform daily movements like walking.
Stretching is a terrific activity to develop flexibility, reduce aches and pains, and lower the risk of falling. Stretching before and after any physical activity is crucial to help prevent any injury.
Maintaining range of motion and posture can be assisted by stretching two or more days a week. One can help improve their muscular length by holding each stretch for 30 to 60 seconds for the main muscle groups. Types of flexibility and stretching exercises include yoga and mat exercises.
4. Resistance or Strength Training
Exercises that increase muscle mass are known as strength training, and strengthening one’s muscles makes it easier to carry out daily tasks.
Strength training routines that target a single muscle group at a go, alternating focal regions each day, are often advised by fitness professionals. This lowers the risk of injury by giving the muscles you’ve worked out some time to recover, strengthen, and rest.
You should execute 10-15 reps in sets of three for each muscle group. Additionally, individual muscle groups should be exercised two to three times each week. Moreover, switch up your workouts so that you don’t overwork the same muscles twice in a row. Examples of workouts for different muscle groups in strength training include:
Standard or assisted pull-ups
Squats or repeated stand-ups from a seated position on a chair
Tricep dips, kickbacks, or extensions
When Should A Patient Start Exercising?
Following a PD diagnosis, starting exercising as soon as feasible is critical. Research indicates that getting started as quickly as possible is crucial for preventing Parkinson’s disease from progressing further.
Consult your doctor or a physical therapist if you’re unclear about which exercises are appropriate for you as a Parkinson’s patient. They will advise certain activities to help you manage your symptoms and address your unique issues.
Tips For Exercising While Dealing With Parkinson’s
Parkinson’s disease might make exercise difficult at first, but there are strategies to make it safer, and easier. More importantly, when you start a new fitness routine, keep the following in mind:
1. Consult Your Physician
Discuss all the advantages and possible hazards with your doctor before beginning any workout program. Whether you’re just taking a stroll around the neighborhood or going to the gym several times a week, you should inform your doctor of your plans.
2. Start Slowly
If you’re dealing with Parkinson’s, starting slowly and gradually increasing your activity level is important. You can’t expect to go from sitting on the couch to training like a marathon runner in one day. Not only is this unrealistic, but it can be dangerous for your body if you have Parkinson’s. Stop immediately if you experience any faintness, wooziness, or nausea.
3. Have a Workout Buddy
Select a trainer who knows about working with people living with Parkinson’s. There are physical trainers specifically qualified to work with people with special conditions. Find one to help ensure you’re performing your workouts safely and effectively.
Also, working out with another person can increase motivation and keep you focused. Look for fitness or community centers that provide exercise programs for people with Parkinson’s disease.
4. Adjust to Your Body’s Needs
Some people with balance problems need alternative workout options which specialized centers offer. If you aren’t making as much progress as you would like, don’t become discouraged. Always begin modestly and continue consistently. You’ll get stronger and more fit over time.
Remember to heed your body’s cues and not force yourself past your limits. When you move at your own pace and do what feels right, you’ll start to see meaningful results.
Before adapting to a new fitness routine, consult an expert to know the right exercise for you.
People with Parkinson’s disease can benefit from regular, structured exercise. You can find many Parkinson’s disease-related workout videos online or sign up for a class near you. Check out the nearest branch and sign up to unlock your free 7-day pass!