Regular exercise is a critical component of healthy living, and for people with Parkinson’s disease, it takes on an even greater level of importance. Parkinson’s disease causes problems with flexibility and balance, which can make activities of daily living more difficult. Those motor problems are often joined by comorbid issues, like constipation and depression.
Exercise can address all of these problems, from maintaining motor function to alleviating depression. And research has shown that people who start regular exercise shortly after their diagnosis have a much better prognosis than those who wait for symptoms to take hold. But how much exercise does someone with Parkinson’s disease need to do? And what types of exercises are good for treating the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?
Exercises for Parkinson’s Disease
People with Parkinson’s disease face a gradual loss of joint flexibility, which can be detrimental to their balance. They develop decreased muscle strength, which can affect their ability to walk or stand. And they see a drop in cardiovascular fitness, reducing their endurance. Consequently, an exercise regimen for Parkinson’s should be designed to counter-balance those types of problems. That means using cardiovascular activity, resistance training, and stretching exercises.
Choosing an Exercise
Sometimes it’s possible to address all of those concerns with only one activity. Pilates, running, biking, dancing, and yoga are all forms of exercise that allow you to manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s on multiple fronts. The form of exercise you use is far less important than the consistency of your activity, but for addressing specific symptoms, you may want to consider targeted exercises.
For example, exercises that use rhythmic motions are good for battling stiffness. But that doesn’t mean everyone with Parkinson’s disease should take up swimming. On the contrary, there’s no such thing as an exercise regimen that’s perfect for everyone. Parkinson’s affects different people in different ways, which is why it’s important to design an exercise plan that’s adapted to each individual’s circumstances.
People with Parkinson’s should exercise roughly the same duration and intensity as people without Parkinson’s. That means exercising most days, for at least 30-40 minutes each day. Fortunately, there’s no need to rush off to the gym. Exercises for Parkinson’s patients can be as simple as wall push-ups, or a similar form of mild calisthenics. And for maintaining muscle tone, light resistance training is just as effective as taking on heavy weights.
It’s easy to see why physical therapy for Parkinson’s disease is so common. Physical therapists are trained to design exercise programs that work around an individual’s health limitations, while working to achieve their health goals. Whether or not you consider using a physical therapist, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise regimen.
And for people who have been living a sedentary lifestyle, it’s important to start slow and build up to more vigorous activity. Regular exercise won’t stop the progression of Parkinson’s disease, but it will go a long way towards maintaining balance, preventing stiffness, and maximizing quality of life.