Exercise and Parkinson’s

Significant research studies and anecdotal evidence highlight the critical importance of exercise for people with Parkinson’s. Regular physical exercise can improve mobility and coordination, boost your mood, reduce stiffness, and minimize soreness and fatigue. And each year, more studies prove that exercise may slow the progression of Parkinson’s itself. Multiple studies explore the possibility that exercise helps protect nerve cells at risk of damage, degeneration, or cell death. In other words, the most vulnerable cells are strengthened before they experience damage – thanks to exercise.   
 
In this collection of resources, we share information about the many ways exercise is medicine for Parkinson’s, plus what to do if you’re not sure what type of exercise is best for you, you don’t feel like exercising, you need to find a Parkinson’s physical therapist in your area, exercise hurts, you need a plan that’s doable and sustainable, and much more. 

senior man and woman doing yoga

How Important Is Exercise to People Living with Parkinson’s?

Exercise not only improves your general health, but it also has specific physical, mental, and emotional benefits. In this post, we help you explore how to add more movement into your daily routine as you learn the many benefits of exercise for people with Parkinson’s. 

Why Exercise is Medicine for the Brain

In 2003, on a bike ride with a friend, Dr. Jay Alberts noticed something that would go on to shape the next two decades of his life. During the multi-day, group ride across Iowa (RAGBRAI), Dr. Alberts pedaled a tandem bike with a friend with Parkinson’s and noticed that after a few days, his friend’s handwriting dramatically improved. “Turns out it was riding the tandem that was making the difference, he said. Since this discovery, Dr. Alberts and his colleagues have dedicated 17 years to studying the effects of exercise on Parkinson’s symptomsTheir research continually supports the belief that forced and high-intensity aerobic exercise improves motor function (and more) in people with Parkinson’sIn this video, Dr. Alberts explains how exercise is medicine for the brain. 

Staying on Track with Your Exercise Routine

Even knowing how powerful a tool exercise is for living well with Parkinson’s every day, staying on track and making exercise part of your daily routine can be difficult. Maybe you haven’t been a regular exerciser. Maybe you have been dealing with pain, motor symptoms, trouble sleeping, fatigue, declining mobility, and depression for many years. And exercise can be challenging. Sure, there are those among us who love to push themselves and face the challenge and the grind of exercising every day, but not all of us do. So, now what? If you don’t gravitate toward regular exercise or feel well enough to do it, this article offers suggestions to help you get started and stick with it. 

Cycling and Parkinson’s: What We Know (and Are Learning) So Far

While we’d never say cycling helps everyone with Parkinson’s or that it is an exercise you must do if you want to live well with Parkinson’s, research studies have shown that many people have experienced significant benefits from pushing pedals on a regular basis. Depending upon pace and intensity, cycling has been shown to improve overall motor function, reduce tremor, reduce bradykinesia, reduce rigidity, improve aerobic capacity, improve mood, improve cognitive function, increase joy and social connection, and decrease UPDRS scores (Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale). Check out our timeline for the latest in Parkinson’s cycling research, living well stories, and more.

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