Exercise and Parkinson's Disease
Any tips on exercise to ease the side effects of Parkinson's disease?
Aside from working with your doctor on an ongoing plan primarily involving medications, one of the most important things you can do is exercise. Many people cite swimming, walking and yoga as favorites. The universal benefits of exercise in helping everyone feel better and improving overall health are well-documented. There is evidence that exercise may hold specific benefits for people with Parkinson's in staying active and relatively limber, and improving balance and motor coordination.
How can I get started on an exercise regimen?
It depends on your overall fitness level, but a good first step is to talk to your primary care physician and have a thorough checkup before starting any activity. For many people it's important to start slowly, and one good way to start is with a physical therapist. This way you can get an "exercise prescription" and work with an expert to determine what you can (and can't) do safely. Especially if you haven't been regularly exercising, it may be best to begin under the supervision of a professional who has access to professional equipment.
Are certain types of exercise best for people with Parkinson's?
The best exercise is the one that your care team approves of and that appeals to you, because you'll stick with it. With that said, some options seem to be working particularly well for people with PD:
- Dance classes for people with Parkinson's disease are ongoing in Brooklyn, New York, and more than 75 other communities around the world. Participants are empowered to explore movement and music in ways that are refreshing, enjoyable, stimulating and creative.
- Boxing is gaining popularity among some people with PD, who find they gain hope and improve quality of life through a non-contact-boxing-based fitness curriculum.
- There is some evidence to support the hypothesis that cycling holds particular benefit for people with Parkinson's disease.
- We know of at least one Parkinson's patient who swears by fencing:
What research is being done on exercise and Parkinson's disease?
- The ParkFit Study is a two-year research project aimed at promoting an active lifestyle in Parkinson's patients and measuring the benefits of activity for people with PD. Led by Dutch researchers at Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre in The Netherlands, ParkFit is the largest exercise study in Parkinson's disease to date.
- According to a study led by Lisa Shulman, MD, from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, low-intensity exercise improves walking in people with Parkinson's. Bastiaan Bloem, MD, an expert on exercise and Parkinson's disease, explains that Shulman's findings underscore the importance of exercise to PD patients.