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5 Exercise Interventions That Can Benefit Your Parkinson’s Patients

By Chizoba Umeh, M.D., Neurologist and Parkinson’s Specialist

Published July 21, 2022

In the post-pandemic era, patients are eager to get out of the house and start an exercise routine. I have found this to be particularly true for my patients with Parkinson’s disease. They want to know how they can improve their health and physical well-being. If you work with patients with Parkinson’s disease in your practice, you may have come across some of these questions: 1. What are the benefits of exercise for Parkinson’s? 2. What exercises are safe for Parkinson’s patients? 3. How much exercise is recommended for Parkinson’s?

Research has shown that exercise has many benefits for Parkinson’s including reducing stress, enhancing mobility and improving overall quality of life. Exercise has also been shown to have neuroprotective effects in slowing Parkinson’s disease progression. Parkinson’s experts recommend doing at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise during a week. Many of your Parkinson’s patients may not know where to start in their Parkinson’s exercise journey. Here are some tips that you as their health care provider can provide to help guide them:

5 ways to improve Parkinson’s wellness through exercise:

1. Aerobic Exercise:  Aerobic exercise can include brisk walking, jogging, treadmill exercise, stationary bike, or rowing. Many Parkinson’s patients enjoy the challenge of rock steady boxing. In addition to the cardiovascular benefits, moderate aerobic exercise can help improve gait and balance for Parkinson’s patients. Moderate intensity exercise may also slow Parkinson’s progression and is indeed a motivating factor to encourage your Parkinson’s patients to start an exercise program today!

2. Stretching Exercise: Stretching exercise can help reduce stiffness associated with Parkinson’s. 10-15 minutes of stretching three to four times a week can help improve flexibility and reduce joint pains.

3. Aquatic Therapy: Studies have shown that aquatic therapy can improve balance and mobility in Parkinson’s patients. Swimming is a great way to spice up an exercise routine; patients can be encouraged to walk against the gentle resistance of water to build strength, swim a lap or stretch during water yoga.

4. Strength Training: Strength training can include weight lifting or using body weight for resistance. Weight lifting is a great way for Parkinson’s patients to increase muscle mass and build endurance. Strength training exercises can include biceps curls, squats, push-ups, pull-ups and walking lunges. Patients should incorporate strength training into their exercise routine in 10–15-minute sessions, 2-3 times a week. 

5. Physical Therapy Exercise: There’s no better way to get Parkinson’s patients motivated to exercise than through formal physical therapy! Physical therapy can help improve gait and balance and has been shown to reduce the risk of falls. Talk to your Parkinson’s patients today about how they can get started in a physical therapy program.

Your Parkinson’s patients are looking for guidance on how to stay in their best shape possible and the above recommendations can help them begin their fitness journey. Encourage them to reap the benefits of exercise by getting started today!

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