As baby boomers enter their golden years, there is new emphasis on maintaining quality of life in those years. This requires that there be a variety of treatment options available, including those elements that one can do on their own, to promote continued vitality and engagement in community, as well as preferred leisure pursuits.   We won’t “settle”, and prefer to be actively engaged in prolonging our active involvement in those activities we are most passionate about.   The same holds true for those affected by Parkinson’s disease, which on the surface, can be a frightening and disabling diagnosis…..but it doesn’t have to be!

Research shows that exercise can ease several of the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, including balance, flexibility and gait speed.   A simple exercise routine, can even improve some of the more annoying secondary effects, including tremor, difficulty manipulating clothing closures, writing, and reduce the frequency of “freezing” when stepping over a threshold or making a turn while walking.  These symptoms, along with being an annoyance, are also a hazard, and often contribute to avoidable accidents, namely falls, which can have disastrous effects on older individuals and their families.

Starting an exercise program can be intimidating, though, especially if you’ve been out of the habit for a while. Here are some tips on beginning a program or adjusting your regular exercise to get the most out of it for your particular symptoms.

Consider meeting with a Physical or Occupational Therapist especially one with experience in working with individuals at varying stages of Parkinson’s disease.   You may not be aware, but the sooner you start with an exercise program, the longer you can ward off symptoms that can disrupt your lifestyle.   Ask your neurologist for a referral for a therapy consultation with a practitioner having a specialty in working with neurological conditions.

Try an exercise program specifically designed for people with Parkinson’s disease.   LSVT BIG/LOUD program is one such program (http://www.lsvtglobal.com/patient-resources) it will teach you, and help you become proficient with a specific exercise routine, that you will then continue on your own or with a group in your community.  Being consistent with the exercise routine is key to the success of this program, and maintaining independence and safety.

Try a high intensity workout.   Research suggests that high-intensity interval training may be more effective in improving Parkinson’s disease symptoms.  Any workout can be made high intensity within your own comfort level.

Bring a friend along! Exercising with others can help you have more fun and stay committed to a routine.

Look for free or low cost community based resources, or commit to walking, running or biking within your neighborhood. The Davis Finney Foundation has a free DVD of exercises available that you can request (http://www.davisphinneyfoundation.org/living-pd/dvd/) Physical activities like gardening, walking your dog and even cleaning can offer benefits!  The bottom line—–stay active!

Stick to it. Studies show that you are much more likely to commit to an exercise routine that you enjoy.  Try ballroom dancing, Tai Chi, Zumba, or whatever strikes your fancy. Try a variety of exercises if you don’t like the first or second you try.   Different exercises will address different symptoms.  For example, Yoga and dance will help with balance, while running and walking target endurance.

So, while Parkinson’s disease can place a speed bump, in the course of your road, it need not STOP you from enjoying the life you have planned for. Stay engaged, stay active, and stay the course……you’ll reap the benefits of continued vitality!

Lori Rogers-Turba, OTR

Lori is an occupational therapist who believes that developing a partnership with each patient is key to a successful outcome.  Lori works with each patient to develop a plan for treating their condition that helps to engage the patient for the best possible result.

Specialty Areas:

Evidence-Based Management of Upper Extremity Musculoskeletal Conditions

Chronic Pain

Neurological Conditions

Cognitive Assessment

Arthritis