If you have Parkinson’s disease, it’s time to lace up your tennis shoes and hit the gym. Research shows that individuals with Parkinson’s disease who exercise twice a week have fewer symptoms of the neurodegenerative condition. Plus, exercise benefits your overall health, which can help reduce the severity of symptoms and the disability related to advancing Parkinson’s disease.

The benefit isn’t just for people who already have Parkinson’s disease. People who get regular exercise are less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease, and if you do develop the condition, you will likely have a slower progression than individuals who do not have an exercise regimen. This may be an especially important way to prevent a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis if you have a hereditary connection to the condition.

What’s the best exercise for people with Parkinson’s disease?

The simple answer: Any exercise that gets you moving and keeps you interested is the best exercise. If you’re willing to stick with a routine, almost any type of exercise can be beneficial. If you’re open to exercising options or looking to mix up your routine, a few exercises have been shown to be especially effective for patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Aerobic activities that are great for patients with Parkinson’s disease include:

  • cycling
  • dancing
  • non-contact boxing
  • rowing
  • swimming
  • walking
  • water aerobics

Other activities that are also beneficial for patients with Parkinson’s disease include:

  • barre exercises
  • gardening
  • golf
  • Pilates
  • Tai Chi
  • weight training
  • yoga

How do I get started?

Before you begin any exercise program, talk with your neurologist or general practitioner. If you have not been physically active before your diagnosis, you may need additional help planning an exercise program. Your doctor will take into consideration your personal health history, your current symptoms and treatment plan, and any additional factors he or she thinks may affect what exercises you can handle.

Your doctor may also ask you to make an appointment with a physical therapist or certified personal trainer who has experience with patients who have Parkinson’s disease. Exercises may need to be modified so you can perform them, especially if Parkinson’s disease is limiting your movement in any way. 

As both your physical fitness and the Parkinson’s disease progress, your physical therapist can help monitor your improvement and exercise routine to see if anything needs to be adjusted to make it more effective for you. 

Keep in Mind…

  • Don’t be upset if you cannot perform as well as you think at first. Exercise requires stamina, and if you haven’t had a regular exercise routine in some time, you may not be able to endure lengthy training periods. Start with shorter periods of exercise, and build up.
  • Be honest with your doctor and physical therapist. If a certain movement or particular type of exercise feels unnatural, too difficult, or hurts too much, tell them you need to have a revised plan. You might inadvertently increase your symptoms if you’re not honest.
  • Make sure you’re in a safe environment. Exercising at home may be convenient, but it may not be safe. You could trip over slippery surfaces, carpets, or rugs. If you hurt yourself during your exercise, you won’t be able to get help immediately if you’re home alone.