Exercise benefits both the physical and psychological well-being of people with Parkinson’s disease (PD). PD affects a person’s ability for moving, walking, motor coordination, and balance. Because of this, exercise helps to keep muscles strong and to improve flexibility and mobility. Exercise possibly can help keep PD from progressing, according to research reported by the National Parkinson Foundation. In addition, exercise improves balance, helping people overcome gait problems and strengthen the muscles that aid in swallowing and speaking. Exercise also can prevent some of the secondary long-term complications of PD such as stiffening of the joints. Patients also receive the emotional satisfaction of feeling they have accomplished something.
Check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program. Your doctor might make recommendations about:
- The types of exercise best suited to you and those that you should avoid
- The intensity of the workout (how hard you should be working)
- The duration of your workout and any physical limitations
- Referrals to other professionals, such as a physical therapist, who can help you create your own personal exercise program
The type of exercise that works best for you depends on your symptoms, fitness level, and overall health. Generally, exercises that stretch the limbs through the full range of motion are encouraged. For patients whose illness limits their ability to exercise, referral to a physical therapist can help by designing an exercise program that you can do. The final precaution, when you get the OK to begin exercising, is to go slowly.
Tips for exercise
- Always warm up before beginning your exercise routine and cool down at the end.
- If you plan to work out for 30 minutes, start with 10-minute sessions and work your way up.
- Exercise your facial muscles, jaw, and voice when possible:
- Sing or read aloud, exaggerating your lip movements.
- Make faces in the mirror.
- Chew food vigorously, avoid swallowing large pieces. Instead, chew each piece for at least 20 seconds.
- Try water exercise, such as aqua aerobics. These are often easier on the joints and require less balance.
- Work out in a safe environment. Avoid slippery floors, poor lighting, throw rugs, and other potential dangers.
- If you have difficulty balancing, exercise within reach of a grab bar or rail. If you have trouble standing or getting up, try exercising in bed rather than on the floor or an exercise mat.
- If at any time you feel sick or you begin to hurt, STOP.
- Most of all, select a hobby or activity you enjoy and will keep doing. Some suggestions include:
- Water aerobics
- Tai Chi