Physical exercise

For people living with Parkinson's, just like everyone else, exercise has been shown to have numerous positive effects on physical and mental wellbeing. That’s why it’s important to stay active in everyday life, and to maintain your quality of life, with the right fitness programme. 

How can I get started on an exercise regimen?

It depends on your overall fitness level, but you should talk to your GP and have a thorough checkup before starting any activity. For most people it's important to start slowly, and know your limitations. A good way to start is with the guidance of a physiotherapist. They can give you an "exercise prescription" and work with you to determine what you can (and can't) do safely.

Stay active with the right training

The best workout is one that you enjoy – whether it's walking, hiking, cycling, gymnastics, pilates, yoga, swimming or dancing, particularly in the early stages of Parkinson’s, there are no restrictions. You can maintain your current activity or try something new. Even later on, when something may be harder for you than it used to be, sports and physical exercise can still have a positive effect on different aspects of your condition and on your quality of life: 

What exercise can help with:

  • Gait pattern and speed
  • Strength
  • Balance
  • Level of pain experienced
  • Mood
  • Everyday activities

Minimise the risk of falling

You should be careful when exercising to minimise the risk of falls, especially if you have advanced Parkinson’s.

If cycling outdoors is no longer possible, or you have not cycled for a while, a ‘stationary bike’ that you can use at home or at the gym can offer a safe alternative. It trains endurance and agility and also has the bonus that it can be used in any weather.

Exercises that are done while standing depend on your ability to balance, so you may need assistance from another person while doing these. You can reduce the risk of falling by doing lying or sitting down exercises, such as those using an exercise ball.

Tips for being physically active

Here are a few tips from the US National Parkinson's Association to help increase your chance of success:

Step 1 – Getting started…

Start your day with some gentle stretching exercises.

Step 2 – Go for a walk …

Ask a friend or a relative to come with you.

Step 3 – Know your limits…

Don’t try to do too much too soon. Start exercising for a few minutes each day and gradually increase your time according to your ability.  

Step 4 – Keep a record …

Writing down your activities on a calendar can help to motivate you.

Step 5 – Make it a habit …

Incorporate exercise into your daily routine so that it becomes an automatic habit.

Step 6 – Enjoy it…

Do activities that give you pleasure. Having another person do activities with you can make them more enjoyable.

And remember the rewards…

You will:

  • sleep better
  • reduce your stress levels
  • have more energy
  • be more relaxed
  • improve balance, posture and flexibility
  • enjoy social activity and a sense of accomplishment

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