Parkinson’s Disease and Exercise

Parkinson’s has a direct effect on a person’s ability to move and this makes exercising even more imperative. Exercise can help keep the muscles strong and improves flexibility and mobility. Even though exercise does not stop Parkinson’s from progressing, it can help improve balance and reduces stiffness of joints. Exercise also plays an important role in easing the secondary symptoms such as depression and constipation.

One should consult a doctor before beginning any exercise program. Depending on the patient’s condition the doctor may recommend the types of exercise which are advisable and the ones which should be avoided. The intensity and duration of the workout should be decided, keeping in mind the physical limitations, symptoms and fitness level of the person with Parkinson’s disease. Professionals and physical therapist should be consulted to create a personal exercise program.

Parkinson’s disease is a problem with the brain’s ability to produce dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that passes information between the brain cells for a variety of actions including muscle motor control. So in a Parkinson’s patient, you see physical symptoms such as tremors, muscle stiffness, impaired gait, and slow ambulation as a result of the loss of this neurotransmitter. Cognitive non-motor muscle symptoms like sleep disorders, apathy, and depression also exist.

Benefits of regular exercise for seniors with Parkinson’s Disease

  • Inhibition of joint malformation
  • Enhanced coordination and balance
  • Better posture
  • Increased cardiovascular fitness
  • Enhanced joint mobility
  • Improved muscle strength and flexibility
  • Less muscle cramping
  • Decreased stress levels
  • Better control over gross motor skills, like walking
  • Increased confidence in carrying out daily activities.

Important things to remember when exercising

  1. A warm up before beginning the exercises and cool down at the end is important.
  2. One should aim at doing a 30 minute work-out session per day. Start with a 10 minute session and increase the duration gradually.
  3. Water exercises such as water aerobics or swimming laps are easier on the joints and require less balance.
  4. Ensure that the workout is done in a safe environment. Slippery floors, poor lighting, throw rugs, etc. are potential dangers and may cause accidents when exercising.
  5. If there are problems in maintaining balance one should exercise within reach of a grab bar or rail. If there is a problem standing or getting up, exercise should be done in bed instead on the floor or exercise mat.
  6. One should stop exercising, any time one feels sick or start hurting.

Types of exercises

  • Cardiovascular training is a routine that increases heart rate and oxygen demand have various benefits for Parkinson’s patients.
  • Aerobic activity works the heart, lungs, and muscles and helps the body burn calories. Examples of aerobic activities are walking, jogging, swimming, water aerobics, chair aerobics and biking.
  • Balance training supplemented with resistance can help address falls.
  • Walking, yoga and tai-chi are some exercises recommended for a person suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
  • Weight training exercise done twice a week may reduce the stiffness, slowness, and tremors often seen in people with Parkinson’s disease.
  • Exercising facial muscles, jaws and voice also helps. Singing or reading aloud, exaggerating lip movements and making faces in the mirror may also be done.
  • Exercises that require large, rhythmical movements through a full range of motion have been shown to decrease rigidity. Exercises to decrease stiffness, such as the following, can be done: Large, rhythmical movements, Rotating the trunk, Vibration, rocking and swinging

Want more information, please see our additional posts as part of our month-long series dedicated to information regarding Parkinson’s Disease (Please create a blog category for Parkinson’s Disease and hyperlink to the category here), diagnoses, treatment, prevention and care.

Parkinson’s Disease: Symptoms
Parkinson’s Disease: Treatment