Calling All Couch Potatoes

Hello to my fellow persons with Parkinson’s (PWP). I imagine you have heard that exercise is good for you. Knowing that does not mean you will get off the couch.

What will motivate you? Hearing the testimony of PWP who benefit from exercise? Wanting to have the energy to enjoy your grandchild for more than 15 minutes?

Five training principles

A lot of exercise information is available online. Your search engine may take you directly to a reputable site like (American College of Sports Medicine) or not. Be discerning.

You might want to see a fitness professional to get started. The following information about training principles complements the FITT principle (frequency of workouts, intensity, time, and type of exercise) for effective workouts. Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting a workout routine.


Exercise a specific body part (or muscle group) in order to improve that body part. Example: Walking on a regular basis over time will increase your aerobic ability and help with activities of daily living (ADL) such as sweeping.1


Gradually increase your exercise over time. Proper progression will also help you avoid injury and burnout because it includes rest and recovery time.1

Example: Jill has built up to walking 2 miles a day. She wants to increase the distance since a friend invited her to join a Parkinson’s 3.1-mile fundraiser in 5 months. A recommended distance increase is 10 percent per week.


A good workout will challenge you. After a while you will adjust to it and find it easier. Once that happens, increase intensity, time, etc. to continue to improve.1

Example: Laura plays ping pong (table tennis) for 45 minutes every Tuesday and Friday. She moves to the Monday-Wednesday-Friday group that plays for 60 minutes. This overload in frequency and time helps her improve her fitness and her game.


Your body grows accustomed to the physical demands required by your exercise plan. Challenging your muscles and/or body systems with new exercises or a change in intensity encourages them to continuously adapt. Example: Your heart and lung function improve by adapting to aerobic exercise.1


You cannot store fitness. Your cardiorespiratory fitness, strength, and flexibility will gradually decline (reverse) when you stop exercising. Example: A week-long vacation is not a major setback.1

Adjust your return to exercise accordingly by resuming a workout at a slightly lower intensity and build back up to where you left off.

Getting started

It is smart to start with a workout plan that includes exercise you can and will do. Find a physical therapist, exercise physiologist, or personal trainer to get started. They will meet with you to learn about your health history, exercise and/or sport history, and preferred types of exercise.

They will consider your body size, previous injuries, current exercise plan and, in the case of PWP – chronic conditions. After conducting certain physical assessments and discussing your goals, they will write an exercise plan tailored to your interests and abilities.

By the way, this is an example of yet another training principle, individuality. Good fitness plans include a foundation of cardio, strength and flexibility exercises. Better plans for PWP also address balance, agility, and cognition.

Increasing your fitness level

Say hello to the exerciser in you. These training principles, and others, help you adapt to a fitness level you may have thought impossible, or at least improbable.

Regular exercise is not only good for your body, but it can help keep emotions steady, could improve some Parkinson's symptoms, and may protect against cognitive decline. You may be uncomfortable at first but persist because there are many benefits.

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