Fighting Parkinson’s with exercise

April 29, 2019

If your loved one has Parkinson’s disease, you have likely observed physical symptoms such as tremors, slowed movement, and poor balance. In addition to treatment with medication, evidence is mounting that exercise itself can reduce or delay progression of these symptoms. Even as little as 2.5 hours of physical activity a week.

Benefits and types of exercise
The benefits of exercise include smoother and quicker movements and improved balance and coordination. Plus, exercise can ease depression, which is so common in Parkinson’s. It’s not a cure for Parkinson’s. But overall your relative will simply feel better. 

There is no one “best” exercise for Parkinson’s. The goal is to get going on some kind of activity and keep going over the long term. Have your relative talk with his or her doctor and get a referral to a physical therapist specializing in Parkinson’s. The therapist can suggest exercises best suited to your loved one’s likes and needs, such as

  • boxing. Punching a bag reinforces confidence and fast, coordinated movements. No hitting of others!
  • dance. Allows for creativity while also promoting agility.
  • rowing or tandem cycling. Doing itwith others can help ensure a pace that builds stamina. A stationary bike with a forced pace may work as well. 
  • tai chi, qi gong, and yoga. These activities support better balance.

Reach a bit, push a bit
Your loved one may prefer to start with something more familiar, such as walking or swimming. The key is to get moving! With Parkinson’s, movements gradually become more restricted. Research indicates that a “forced-pace” activity that feels to the person a little harder than they can do is more likely to extend ease of motion. A physical therapist can design and monitor a program that strikes the balance between too much and too little.

Trouble getting your loved one to exercise?
You are not alone. And nagging won’t help! As the Iowa City, Muscatine and Cedar Rapids experts in family caregiving, we at Iowa City Hospice can help you navigate the balance between pushing and support. Give us a call at 1-800-897-3052, toll-free.