Exercise for Parkinson’s
Exercise for Parkinson’s is an area enjoying intense examination and research currently. This is off the back of a weight of existing research now showing that exercise can be as important as medication in controlling the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. Indeed, some research suggests strongly that improving leg strength alone can slow the progression of the condition. And yet there is still very little help out there for people with Parkinson’s to learn how, when and what type of exercise to do to get the best rewards and to improve their outcomes living with Parkinson’s the most.
What Type of Exercise is best for Parkinson’s Disease?
The first and primary message is to get moving! Generally speaking, more movement is better than less movement for People with Parkinson’s. And the second key message is, within certain guidelines, find out what works best for you and you Parkinson’s, through some trial and error. Remember, you are more than just someone with Parkinson’s, an you have your own underlying movement patterns, genetics, strengths and weaknesses, and also preferences. If you are prescribed exercise for your Parkinson’s that you hate, the chances after a while, you will simply stop doing it.
Having said this, there are some guidelines to follow. First, try to get a range of: strength, or resistance, exercise; cardiovascular, or aerobic exercise; mentally challenging, or learning modality exercise like dancing, boxing or martial arts, where a skill needs to be developed; flexibility; and some ‘dual-tasking’, or exercise where you are doing more than one thing at a time.
When Should I Exercise With Parkinson’s?
Especially when first starting an exercise routine, you should try to exercise during the ‘on’ phase of your Parkinon’s medication, if you have one. Avoid first thing in the morning, late in the evening, or within an hour of eating. Try to stick to the same of day for big workouts, but also try to adopt the idea of ‘exercise snacking’. This effectively means getting lots of small ‘snacks’ of exercise in through the day – a set of squats before lunch and dinner, a walk round the block 2 or 3 times a day, some stretching in the morning, on top of some larger strength and cardio style exercise sessions. This can have a significant positive effect on secondary symptoms from your Parkinson’s, like stiffness or low energy, as well as improving primary Parkinsonian symptoms like balance problems, posture and digestion. Yes, exercise can improve digestion for people living with Parkinson’s! Diet and nutrition also play an important role.
How Hard Should I Exercise if I Have Parkinson’s?
No matter who you are, with or without Parkinson’s, if you are just starting an exercise programme then you should start gently. Let your body, energy systems, joints and muscles adjust to moving more, and exercising, gradually. This can take longer with a medical condition, as I can attest – I have Multiple Sclerosis. Build your programme gradually, brick by brick, slowing down when you have to, moving forwards and doing more when you can, but keep building. Keep progressing, one extra minute, one extra squat at a time, until you can do double, or triple what you were doing when you started. And never quit! Take the knock-backs and the hurdles, and just keep building until you are fitter and stronger. Get as much information and help as you can, and don’t quit. Because, in the end, the choices are keep trying and feel better, or stop trying and feel worse and worse. The eventual goal is to be doing at least 150 minutes a week of intense exercise at around 80% of your maximum effort. On top of this working on balance training, flexibility and skill development is highly recommended.