A woman stretches next to a dumbbell away from a chair before going outside.

Getting Off The Couch Is Hard

Why should I get off the couch? It’s comfy.

According to the Parkinson’s Outcomes Project, "people with Parkinson's disease who start exercising earlier in their disease course for a minimum of 2.5 hours per week experience a slowed decline in quality of life compared to those who start later"1

Excuses not to exercise

Most of us are not getting that minimum of 2.5 hours a week of exercise. Many of us are not exercising at all. Starting or increasing exercise is difficult as we already have built in excuses. Do these sound familiar? (I’ve used these excuses and more)

  • I hate exercise
  • It’s not fun
  • I’ve tried before
  • I can’t stick with a program
  • I can’t afford a gym
  • I’m too old or too fat or too uncoordinated or too embarrassed to exercise
  • I’m not seeing change
  • I use a walker or I’m in a wheelchair
  • I’ve tried and I can’t keep up
  • I’m too stressed
  • I’m tired and sore.

...And on and on.

Taking the pledge

Say the following out loud: "I need and want my Parkinson’s progression to slow down or stop and I am unwilling to do the one thing, the one and only thing, that will slow or stop my Parkinson’s.

Sound illogical or oxymoronic? You can’t have it both ways.

Let’s make that a positive pledge: "I need and want my Parkinson’s progression to slow down or stop and I will do the one Thing, the one and only thing, that will slow or stop my Parkinson’s. I will exercise.

Truth 1: Don’t try a marathon the first day or even the second. Probably never. Be the turtle.
Truth 2: You’re never going to look like the Terminator.
Truth 3: The first week might not be fun.

What exercise should I do?

That’s simple: The one you can do and will do. Make a list of activities you might be willing to try. Find one or several that you enjoy. If you enjoy what you are doing, you have a reason to continue.

How to start exercising

The following are tips I've found helpful when starting my exercise routine. Remember, progress may be slow. Doing the exercise better or faster or stronger is not the initial goal. Just doing the exercise repeatedly and to the best of your ability is the goal. Progress will come.

Start small

Set realistic goals. If you try too much too quickly, you may not continue. Getting too sore or too fatigued is a huge de-motivator.

Obligate yourself to others

Exercise with others. Get an exercise buddy. I’ll be there. If you will, I will. It’s on my calendar. Set the expectation you will call or email if I’m not in class and I’ll do the same.

Find an exercise group that looks like you

For example, a Parkinson’s Power Moves class.

All ages? Check.
All body shapes. Check
Varying abilities. Check
At your own pace. Check

Can’t stand or have balance problems? Seated exercises can be as hard as standing. Same for floor exercises. Can’t afford a class? Check your health insurance. Try Silver Sneakers or your YMCA. Go YouTube or try Virtual.

Exercise at the same time each day

Repetition builds habits. Repetition builds success.

Think incrementally

I can’t walk a mile right now but I can walk to my mailbox. I’ll add on a little distance a little at a time.

Focus on the right things

I made it to class. I made it to class 3 times this week. Can’t touch your toes? Big deal. It’s not about touching your toes. It’s about stretching those leg muscles you just exercised. You don’t have to touch your toes to get a good stretch.

Write it down

Keep records. One way to feel good about exercise is to rate on a scale of 1-10 your mood, fatigue level and pain level just before exercise and again right after. Feel those endorphins! Share your progress with others.

Forgive yourself

There will be setbacks. It’s not the end of the world if you miss a day.

See you at exercise.

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