Exercise improves function and quality of life for people with Parkinson’s disease. But sometimes you just don’t feel like going out for exercise. You’re tired, the weather is bad, or you want to spend time at home with your family.
Benefits of exercise when you have Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease is a chronic condition that usually develops after the age of 60. Over time, it gets harder to control your muscles, to move smoothly, to walk, and to keep your balance. Fatigue and depression may increase. Your cognitive functions may decline.1 Cognitive functions are mental activities, such as thinking, understanding, learning, and remembering.2
Studies have found that exercise can reduce the risk of falls and improve mobility and quality of life for people with Parkinson’s.3 All types of exercise improve cognitive functions and reduce depression.4,5
Some types of exercise have specific benefits:
Pilates improves fitness, balance, and physical function. It helps the lower body more than other forms of exercise.6
Tai Chi helps balance, prevents falls, and improves psychological health. It works as well as usual exercises and in some cases works better.7,8
Dance, especially the Argentine tango, helps balance, coordination, and mobility. It also reduces fatigue and improves cognitive functions.8-10
Treadmill training improves balance, physical abilities, and quality of life.11
Where do you want to exercise?
If you enjoy the social aspects of exercising with a group, you may want to a join a gym or sign up for a class. If you want to learn specific types of exercise, lessons may be right for you. Or the comfort and convenience of home may appeal to you more.
Exercise at home
Research has shown that prescribed exercise at home can improve balance and walking speed. It can be as effective as exercise in a therapy center.12
A stationary bike is one option for exercise at home. A study in 2019 found positive results. The study asked people with Parkinson’s disease to ride a stationary bike at home. They cycled for 30 to 45 minutes at least three times a week. To encourage them to continue, the bikes had rewards for exercise and games. The games were fun and became harder as the riders improved their fitness. After 6 months, the cyclists had better cardiovascular health than a group who did stretching exercises with similar rewards. The cyclists also had more control of their movements. The improved motor control was similar to the effect of Parkinson’s drugs.13
Dance may be another option at home. A 2018 study included home practice along with in-person dance classes. Many participants reported that they enjoyed dancing and would like to keep it as a form of exercise. Future studies may help in judging benefits of dance at home after completing classes.9
Ask your doctor
Each person is different. You may respond better to some exercises than others. Be sure to check with your doctor before you begin any new exercise program.
Parkinson’s disease. National Institute on Aging. Available at https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/parkinsons-disease. Accessed 10/11/19.
Cognitive. Merriam-Webster. Available at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cognitive. Accessed 10/17/19.
Georgy E, Barsnley S, Chellappa R. Effect of physical exercise-movement strategies programme on mobility, falls, and quality of life in Parkinson’s disease. International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation. 2012 Feb 1;19(2):88-96. https://doi.org/10.12968/ijtr.2012.19.2.88. Epub 2013 Sep 29.
Dauwan M, Begemann MJH, Slot MIE, et al. Physical exercise improves quality of life, depressive symptoms, and cognition across chronic brain disorders: a transdiagnostic systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Neurol. 2019 Aug 14. doi: 10.1007/s00415-019-09493-9.
IOS Press. Exercise can improve non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. ScienceDaily. 2019 Mar 4. Available at https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190304105418.htm. Accessed 10/11/19.
Suárez-Iglesias D, Miller KJ, Sejio-Martínez M, Ayán C. Benefits of pilates in Parkinson’s disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Medicina (Kaunas). 2019 Aug 13;55(8). pii: E476. doi: 10.3390/medicina55080476.
Klein PJ, Baumgarden J, Schneider R. Qigong and tai chi as therapeutic exercise: Survey of systematic reviews and meta-analyses addressing physical health conditions. Altern Ther Health Med. 2019 Sep;25(5):48-53. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31221939. Accessed 10/12/19.
Tang L, Fang Y, Yin J. The effects of exercise interventions on Parkinson's disease: A Bayesian network meta-analysis. J Clin Neurosci. 2019 Sep 13. pii: S0967-5868(19)30742-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jocn.2019.08.092.
Rocha P, Aguiar L, McClelland JA, Morris ME. Dance therapy for Parkinson's disease: A randomised feasibility trial. International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation. 2018 Feb;25(2). https://doi.org/10.12968/ijtr.2018.25.2.64. Epub 2018 Feb 12.
McGill University. Tango dancing benefits Parkinson’s patients. Science Daily, 2015 April 13. Available at https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150413140908.htm. Accessed 10/11/19.
Arfa-Fatollahkhani P, Safar Cherati A, Habibi SAH, et al. Effects of treadmill training on the balance, functional capacity and quality of life in Parkinson's disease: A randomized clinical trial. J Complement Integr Med. 2019 Aug 21. pii: /j/jcim.ahead-of-print/jcim-2018-0245/jcim-2018-0245.xml. doi: 10.1515/jcim-2018-0245.
Flynn A, Allen NE, Dennis S, et al. Home-based prescribed exercise improves balance-related activities in people with Parkinson's disease and has benefits similar to centre-based exercise: a systematic review. J Physiother. 2019 Oct;65(4):189-199. doi: 10.1016/j.jphys.2019.08.003. Epub 2019 Sep 11.
Radboud University Medical Center. Exercising at home has a positive effect on Parkinson’s patients. ScienceDaily. 2019 Sep 12. Available at https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/09/190912112421.htm. Accessed 10/11/19.