Parkinson’s disease is a severe neurodegenerative disorder that can affect nearly all aspects of your daily life. About one million people in the United States are living as PD patients, and estimates suggest that nearly 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s every year. The prevalence of Parkinson’s disease increases with age, and most PD patients are age 50 or older. Therefore, it is important to know the early warning signs of Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease can present a variety of signs and symptoms of various levels of severity. Knowing the difference between essential tremor and Parkinson’s can be very beneficial. Tremors, characterized by involuntary shaking in your limbs, is one of the most common symptoms, but Parkinson’s disease can have a comprehensive effect on all of your muscle and motor coordination. This can result in rigidity, poor posture, slow movement, and general problems with movement and motor coordination. However, implementing regular exercise and lifestyle changes can help to keep your limbs and muscles active and limber to support your movement. Read on to learn more about some simple coordination exercises for Parkinson’s patients.
Parkinson’s disease can make regular exercise like walking feel difficult, often like your feet are stuck to the floor. However, walking is also one of the most accessible exercise regimens. It is low impact physical activity and can be done in essentially any setting. Walking works the muscle strength in your legs, thighs, and lower back, all of which are involved in your coordination, balance, and general posture. Walking can also build Parkinson’s patients’ flexibility in their lower body and improve their overall stamina.
Walking also allows for plenty of variation based on how you are feeling and what you are comfortable with in your exercise regimen. You can go at your own pace. You can use a treadmill or otherwise find a level path at your park, or you can add some challenge by walking somewhere with different elevations to really get in that strength training. To really get your blood pumping, you can go for a light jog or alternate between jogging and walking for your exercise routine. Make sure you stay safe and bring someone along during your exercise program for support if you need it.
Whether you cycle outdoors or set up a stationary bike indoors, cycling is another great low-impact exercise program. Similar to walking, cycling works out the muscles in your legs and back, but it also focuses more on your thighs and core, which can further support your balance and coordination.
You want to find a flat, smooth area for cycling that is free of debris and other people who might get in your way of your physical activity. A track or clear park pathway is ideal. If you find the physical exercise of cycling on your own difficult, consider using a tandem bicycle with a friend or caregiver. Some studies suggest that tandem cycling at a higher cadence may improve motor function and activate proprioceptors in Parkinson’s patients. Tandem cycling also has the added benefit of cycling with a friend for even more fun physical exercise.
3. Tai Chi
Tai chi is a martial art. When practiced at normal speed, tai chi can act as a form of self-defense, but most people are more familiar with slow, controlled movements, which is still incredibly beneficial to your overall health. While it might seem easy, tai chi is more complex than you think, and every steady move requires you to activate your muscles, support your breathing, and work your coordination. It is a gentle but active exercise that can also be adjusted and modified to suit your personal physicality.
Studies show that those with mild to moderate forms of Parkinson’s disease may benefit from tai chi. Tai chi was shown to improve balance and reduce the rate of motor control decline. Tai chi may also reduce the number of falls, a common problem among Parkinson patients
Tai chi is incredibly safe, and it can be done with friends to provide extra support. Tai chi, like other martial arts, is also designed to be meditative, which can help to ease your everyday stress and provide greater mental clarity.
Yoga has become increasingly popular among all age groups, and for good reason. It is highly adaptable to different skill levels and helps your strength, flexibility, and coordination. Yoga comes with countless different moves and positions that work different muscle groups. This may all help to reduce muscle rigidity, spasms and tremors, and atrophy. It may also support your balance and improve your overall range of motion. Regularly practicing yoga may also slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease.
Studies show that maintaining a regular yoga practice helped to improve motor function, gait, postural stability, and fall risk in those with Parkinson’s disease. Much like tai chi, yoga also incorporates meditation and breathing exercises, which can reduce your stress, induce relaxation, and improve your overall quality of life.
You can easily find instructional yoga videos online, and yoga classes are increasingly common. Invest in a good yoga mat, and wear clothes that will not hinder your movement. This is also a great exercise to do with friends, family, and caregivers.
Aquatic exercises in general can be a great option for some people with Parkinson’s disease. The water buoyancy takes some of the weight and pressures off your muscles and joints, which may help to reduce muscle tension and support smoother movements. Swimming is a good all-around workout that helps to increase your strength and stamina and support your cardiovascular health as you swim laps or simply move through the water.
Depending on your ability and personal confidence levels, it is a good idea to join a swim class or take swimming lessons to learn the basics. Talk to your physiotherapist about using any swim aids to help you learn. It is also a good idea to have a friend or caregiver to supervise and ensure your safety. If you are swimming at a public pool with a lifeguard, make sure they are aware that you have Parkinson’s, which can provide you with peace of mind and informs them to be more alert of any potential issues.
Outside of swimming, other aquatic exercises to try out include water aerobics, aqua jogging, and aqua Zumba. These have the benefit of allowing you to exercise in a group.
Dancing comes in so many different types and forms, from ballroom to tango to line dancing. All forms of dancing require coordination and balance, and studies show that dancing may improve your balance, strength, endurance, and general functional fitness and mobility. Dancing can also improve your gait and stimulate your cognitive functioning.
Unlike some of the other exercises in this list, dance also has a distinct social component. Whether you dance with a group or practice some partner dancing, you are generally required to interact with other people. Considering the music and fun, dancing can easily trick you into exercising without you even realizing it.
Although there is no cure for Parkinson’s, a combination of medication and lifestyle changes can help you control your symptoms. Even disregarding its benefits for Parkinson’s disease, exercise is a great way to increase your heart rate and blood flow while getting your endorphins up and relieving some stress. To learn more, consult your doctor or visit Immunity Therapy Center for help.
- Parkinson’s Foundation. Parkinson’s statistics. https://www.parkinson.org/Understanding-Parkinsons/Statistics
- Home care assistance Philadephia. 5 Types of Exercise to Boost Coordination in Seniors with Parkinson’s. https://www.homecareassistancephiladelphia.com/parkinsons-coordination-and-balance-exercises/
- Salgado, Sanjay et al. “An evidence-based exercise regimen for patients with mild to moderate Parkinson’s disease.” Brain sciences vol. 3,1 87-100. 16 Jan. 2013, https://www.doi.org/10.3390/brainsci3010087
- Harvard Medical School. Tai chi improves balance and motor control in Parkinson’s disease. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/tai-chi-improves-balance-and-motor-control-in-parkinsons-disease-201305036150
- Li, Fuzhong et al. “Tai chi and postural stability in patients with Parkinson’s disease.” The New England journal of medicine vol. 366,6 (2012): 511-9. https://www.doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa1107911
- Parkinsons Foundation. Yoga for PD. https://www.parkinson.org/georgia/pd-gladiators-fitness-network/yoga
- Parkinson’s UK. Swimming and Parkinson’s. https://www.parkinsons.org.uk/information-and-support/your-magazine/experts/swimming-and-parkinsons
- Parkinsons Disease. net. Dancing Your Way to a Better Quality of Life with Parkinson’s. https://parkinsonsdisease.net/living/dance-therapy
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