The Best Exercise For Parkinson’s Disease

In this article, we will go through the benefits of exercise for Parkinson’s disease patients.

A list of specific exercises is also provided for those who want to stay healthy and combat the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Exercise For Parkinson's Disease

To stay healthy and fit, exercising is vital, regardless of whether you have Parkinson’s disease or not.

That said, exercising is more important for Parkinson’s disease (PD) sufferers as it can improve their mobility, flexibility, and ability to maintain balance.

Why Is Exercise Recommended For People With Parkinson’s Disease?

The benefits experienced by most people who exercise are also the same ones experienced by PD sufferers.

However, some of the benefits most people take for granted are very important for those with PD. These include an increase in grip strength, coordination, balance, and tremor control.

The Parkinson’s Foundation is leading the research towards finding a permanent cure for this progressive neurodegenerative disease (1).

One of their studies, as part of the Parkinson’s Outcomes Project, concluded that exercising for 2.5 hours a week showed a slowdown in the decline of the participants’ mobility and quality of life (2).

This scientific study is proof that exercising does help improve PD symptom management.

The Benefits Of Exercising For Parkinson’s Disease Patients:

  • Improved balance
  • Better posture
  • Easier time walking
  • Better grip strength
  • Reduced frequency of tremors
  • Improved flexibility
  • Less stiffness
  • Improved motor coordination

Benefits Of Exercise For Parkinson's Disease

Neurological Benefits Of Exercising:

Exercising doesn’t just help counter the decline in physical fitness for those with Parkinson’s disease.

It can also help relieve several neurological symptoms associated with PD.

Studies have shown that exercising can improve cognitive function, speed, and mental flexibility in PD patients (3).

Other mental health benefits include better management of symptoms like moodiness, fatigue, and sleep problems.

The boost in dopamine levels caused by exercising is said to help combat the dopamine deficiency common in those with PD (4).

Famous Parkinson’s Disease Sufferers:

  • Neil Diamond (diagnosed 2018)
  • Glenn Tipton (diagnosed 2008)
  • Leonard Maltin (diagnosed 2015)
  • Knowlton Nash (diagnosed 2002)
  • Robin Williams (diagnosed 2014)
  • Janet Reno (diagnosed 1995)
  • George H.W. Bush (diagnosed 2012)
  • Jesse Jackson (diagnosed 2015)
  • Davis Phinney (diagnosed 2000)
  • Muhammad Ali (diagnosed 1984)
  • Dave Jennings (diagnosed 1996)
  • Michael J. Fox (diagnosed 1991)
  • Bob Hoskins (diagnosed 2011)
  • Billy Connolly (diagnosed 2012)
  • Brian Grant (diagnosed 2008)
  • Billy Graham (diagnosed 1993)
  • Pope John Paul II (diagnosed 1991)
  • Linda Ronstadt (diagnosed 2012)
  • Alan Alda (diagnosed 2015)

Famous Parkinson’s Disease Sufferers

Types Of Exercise For Parkinson’s Disease:

According to PD patients, no one exercise is best at combating PD symptoms.

In fact, different exercises work more effectively for different people.

Hence, the only way to really know which exercise will work for you or your loved ones is to give them a try.

The basic types of exercises that are proven to help PD patients:

  • Flexibility training (like stretching)
  • Cardiovascular training (like aerobics)
  • Resistance training (like bodyweight exercises)

The most effective exercises for Parkinson’s disease:

  • Running
  • Cycling
  • Dancing
  • Yoga
  • Skipping
  • Pilates
  • Tai Chi

Tai Chi For Parkinson's Disease

Out of all these exercises, some studies have found that Random Practice is the most beneficial for those with PD (5).

This exercise requires the patient to change their direction, speed, and activity randomly, improving coordination, motor skills, and balance.

Even if you choose to do one of the other exercises to curb the PD symptoms, it’s recommended you switch up your routine frequently for maximum benefits.

Note: Cycling requires both good balance and sharp reflexes, both of which are affected because of PD. So, caution should be taken when considering cycling as an activity for PD patients.

Which Exercise Is Right For You?

The selection of the exercise that’s right for you will largely depend on the progression of your PD symptoms.

According to Parkinson’s UK, here are the exercise recommendations for PD patients (6):

  • Mild PD symptoms: Resistance exercises and working out at the gym.
  • Moderate PD symptoms: Exercises that target specific symptoms that may hamper daily activities.

Some experts suggest that weight training may not be ideal for PD patients (7).

Alternative strengthening exercises that can work just as well as weight training include:
  • Push-ups
  • Modified squats
  • Using weighted ankle/wrist straps around the house
  • Repeatedly getting up and sitting in a chair

In addition, an important point to remember in terms of exercise for Parkinson’s disease is that it’s best to start as early as possible.

This means that if you were just diagnosed with PD, you should start the flexibility and coordination exercises as soon as possible. This should help slow down the degenerative disease.

Tips For Exercising For Parkinson’s Disease:

  • Continue with your chosen exercises for at least six months to see noteworthy results.
  • Follow proper warm-up and stretching exercises to prevent injuries and muscle stiffness.
  • Exercising with greater intensity and for a more extended period can further improve your results.
  • Use a step counter (pedometer) to keep track of your walking steps and progress.
  • Talk to your doctor/neurologist before you start any new exercise routine to ensure that it’s safe for you.
  • Joint group activities where you can enjoy the activity while staying fit.
  • Switch-up your workout routine to maximize the benefits of exercising for Parkinson’s disease.

Tips For Exercising For Parkinson’s Disease

What Should Your Next Step Be?

As mentioned earlier, the sooner you start exercising, the better your chases of delaying the symptoms of PD.

However, do understand that while exercising can slow down the symptoms of the neurodegenerative disease, this is not a cure for PD.

Also, if you are unsure of whether you have PD, you should talk to your doctor and get checked out first. A physical therapist can also give you a tailor-made exercise program to maximize your gains.

Visiting the physical therapist becomes more critical as your PD symptoms get worse over time, as this can limit the exercises you can perform safely.

That said, just the fact that you can slow down PD symptoms makes trying out these exercises worth considering.

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Jessica J
About Jessica J 133 Articles
Written & Reviewed by Jessica J, M. D. Dermatology.

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