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Exercises & Parkinson's Disease

By Lisa Mills-Hutton, Physiotherapist with a special interest in neurological physiotherapy

Exercise for people with Parkinson’s Disease is immensely important. And the best time to start is now.

The Parkinson’s Outcomes Project study found that people with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) who start exercising earlier in diagnosis and a minimum of 2.5 hours a week, experienced a slowed decline in quality of life compared to those who start later. The study concluded that establishing early exercise habits is essential to overall disease management.

The exercise options are endless but most importantly it important to find something you enjoy and is safe. Some common recommendations are biking, running, Tai chi, yoga, Pilates, dance, weight training, non-contact boxing, qi gong and many more options have shown to have positive outcomes for individuals with PD.

The type of exercise you do depends on your symptoms, challenges, interests and ideally with the guidance of health care providers.

One program we enjoy teaching and incorporating in the exercise plan with individuals with PD is a specific physiotherapy training program called, LSVT BIG training. The LSVT BIG program is meant to help individuals with Parkinson’s increase what is often called ‘amplitude of movement’. In LSVT BIG, you complete a series of exaggerated physical movements, like high steps and arm swings. It’s a way to retrain the muscles and slow down the progression of hypokinesia (the increasingly smaller, more shuffling movements that may happen with PD).

Strength Training, Cardiovascular Training and Stretching are also key recommendations for individuals with Parkinson’s Disease. Again it is best to get some guidance from a health care provider and aim for 2.5 hours a week minimum as recommended by the Parkinson’s Outcome Project.

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