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Can Exercises Help Manage Parkinson's Disease?

Jul 25, 2018 by Suzanne M. White

Parkinson's is an incurable disease, but recent studies have found that activity plays a vital role in improving the quality of life for people who have Parkinson’s disease, or PD. A regular exercise routine can improve walking, balance, and muscle stiffness. Aerobic exercises will increase oxygen delivery to keep your heart, lungs, and nervous system healthy. Depression can be reduced through general exercise, and cognitive exercises can help keep your memory sharp. Let’s review some key questions surrounding how exercise can help mitigate the symptoms of Parkinson’s and what you should know before beginning an exercise regimen.


The Best Exercises for People with Parkinson’s Disease

Research has shown that aerobic and learning-based exercises could protect aging individuals from suffering the hardship of neurodegenerative diseases like PD. You should seek help from a family member or caregiver who can facilitate exercise programs that challenge your heart and lungs. Your family member and/or caregiver should closely monitor your biomechanics, posture, rotation, and body movements to ensure that they are rhythmic and systematic. For example, dancing is an excellent form of aerobic exercise that encompasses all of these elements.

Further research has found that aerobic activities that are performed with healthy movement patterns or changes in direction will benefit patients with PD. As you exercise, it is important to keep it varied because people with PD will typically struggle to adjust from one activity to another. A diverse exercise plan can make these transitions easier.


Types of Exercises:

  • Go for a walk
  • Dance
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi
  • Sports (golf, tennis, volleyball)
  • Aerobics Classes


Is Strength Training Helpful?

Weightlifting is not the ideal exercise for a person with PD, particularly if it is the only exercise activity they perform. If you choose to lift weights and have PD, it is essential to be careful to avoid stiffness and rigidity when performing these exercise movements. As you get older, you must exercise more to maintain muscle mass. You should focus on strengthening postural muscles to help with keeping a straight posture. Specific integrative and functional exercises, specifically programs developed by a home care agency, outside of weight-training can strengthen muscles in ways that are more beneficial to patients with Parkinson’s.


Alternative Exercises to Weight Lifting

  • Modified Squats
  • Rising and Sitting in a Chair
  • Wearing Wrist and Ankle Weights Around the House or on a Walk
  • Push-ups
  • Wall Push-ups for Your Arms


What About Swimming?

Swimming is an excellent form of exercise that incorporates both aerobic work and maintains muscle strength. However, swimming is not helpful to every person battling PD. Some people will find the resistance of the water to decrease their stiffness, but others will feel increased stiffness from swimming. There are certain activities you can try the next time you are in a pool. They include:

  • Adding resistance with paddles and trunk support to provide more opportunity for reciprocal movements and circling movements of the arms and legs
  • Rolling and doing somersaults in the pool, which are suitable for those individuals who are comfortable in the water

Keep in mind, that if you have trouble breathing due to your PD, swimming may not be the right aerobic exercise for you. In those cases, swimming may be more geared towards those who have done it in the past or those who are struggling with musculoskeletal conditions, particularly to the knee and back.


How Often Should You Exercise?

People with Parkinson’s disease should exercise in the same way as those without the disease. A typical week should consist of 4-5 workouts lasting 30-40 minutes. This typical workout week is calculated on the assumption that your heart is beating at 70 to 80% of maximum (220 – your age times 70 to 80%).


For more information on in-home care services, or to learn the many ways Comfort Keepers® of Flemington, NJ can help your senior loved stay safe in the comfort of their home, contact us at (908) 806-2220 or Toll Free at (877) 806-2220. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year.

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