How Exercise Can Ease Anxiety in Parkinson’s

Two senior women training on simulator and smiling

Anxiety is one of the most common — and least discussed — Parkinson’s symptoms. Not only can anxiety result from the brain changes brought on by Parkinson’s, but worries about off-times, changing symptoms, as well as questions and fears about the future, can all lead to anxiety.

According to a 2014 study in Therapeutic Advances in Neurological Disorders, anxiety in people with Parkinson’s can exacerbate existing symptoms, as well as contribute to “significant impairments in areas of cognitive, functional, motor and social performance.” While feelings of anxiety should be a topic of conversation with your healthcare team, regular exercise can also help you manage everyday anxiety.

Exercise is Essential for People Living with Parkinson’s

A regular workout routine can:

  • Strengthen your body
  • Increase flexibility
  • Improve your mood
  • Boost your energy

Research has shown that people with Parkinson’s who exercise between two and three hours a week may even slow the progression of Parkinson’s. A comprehensive exercise routine typically includes aerobic or cardiovascular activity to boost your heart rate, along with flexibility and stretching, both of which are especially important if you experience stiffness in the muscles that flex arms, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. Your exercise routine should also include strength training, which helps fight fatigue and increases energy, balance and fine movement control. Weight-bearing exercises like walking or jogging increase endurance, strength and bone density.

Exercise Boosts Emotions

We know that exercise helps overall health and wellness for everyone, but the benefits of exercise are more than just physical. A 2016 review in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease confirmed that exercise could improve physical and mental health for people living with Parkinson’s. Investigators analyzed 106 studies conducted over the past 30 years to better understand the impact of exercise on people with Parkinson’s. In addition to increased balance, mobility and flexibility, exercise was shown to improve cognitive ability as well.

Exercise can improve your outlook as you navigate the daily ups and downs of living with Parkinson’s:

  • Enjoy yourself. Many people discover that while engaged in an activity they enjoy, they become less aware of symptoms and experience a wave of relief from whatever anxieties may have been present prior to exercise.
  • Involve both your body and brain. When both are focused on movement, the result can be quite an effective stress-reliever.
  • Release those endorphins. Exercise triggers the release of endorphins — chemicals that produce a positive sense of wellbeing and can even reduce the pain and discomfort of some Parkinson’s symptoms.
  • Get social. Finally, exercise can be a helpful social outlet. Exercising with a spouse, a friend or a group can provide a strong sense of connection and be a welcome distraction from the worries and concerns of the day.

Ready to get moving?

While exercise may not eliminate anxiety associated with Parkinson’s, it is a proven way to manage it. Find out how to get started, stay motivated and see results. For a range of workouts designed specifically for people with Parkinson’s, download and watch our Parkinson’s Exercise Essentials video

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