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Frequently Asked Questions about Exercise & Parkinson’s

If you do not see your question here please call our InfoLine on 1800 644 189 and they will be able to answer or direct your question.

I’ve been told that exercise is important. How truly important is exercise to a person with Parkinson's?

Exercise is extremely important for people with PD – it helps to keep people mobile, keep muscles strong and well-toned, maintain overall health and prevent secondary consequences of immobility. Exercise is also known to improve mood and alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety, and reduce the risk of development of cognitive impairment in the general population.  Recent research has suggested that regular, daily exercise may help to slow the progression of PD, but additional studies need to be done to confirm this.

Is walking the best form of exercise for people with Parkinson’s?

There is no ‘best’ form of exercise for people with Parkinson’s. All exercise is of benefit!  Choosing exercises that is specific to assisting your symptoms is what is best.

There is increasing evidence that aerobic and unfamiliar (need to be learnt) exercises could be neuroprotective for those with Parkinson’s. Exercises that challenge the brain, heart and lungs, encourage good biomechanics, good posture, trunk rotation and normal rhythmic, symmetric movements are the best. Exercises such as; Dancing, Boxing or programs targeting Parkinson’s symptoms specifically will all be of benefit.

Will exercise make my muscles less stiff?

Large big rhythmical movements with a full range of motion have been shown to decrease rigidity. For example, in a Parkinson’s program of aerobic exercise using music, there was a reduction in rigidity in 9 out of 10 participants immediately after the exercise program.

When should I exercise in relation to medication?

When your mobility is at its best is the best time to exercise. Often the best mobility occurs around 1 hour after a dose. However this varies from person to person.

How often should I exercise?

The guidelines are the same for people with or without Parkinson’s (ie 4-5 times a week for at least 30-40 minutes). This assumes that your heart is beating at 70-80% of your maximum  (220 – your age x 60 to 80%).

The guidelines for people with Parkinson’s disease are no different from those without the disease (i.e. 4-5 times a week for at least 30-40 minutes). This assumes that your heart is beating at 70 to 80% of maximum (220 – your age times 70 or 80%).

When should I see a Physiotherapist/Exercise Physiologist (EP)?

As soon as diagnosed.  The sooner, the better for symptom control. All people with Parkinson’s should consultation with a Parkinson’s specialist physiotherapist/Exercise Physiologist to design the appropriate exercise program tailored specifically for you. This will also establish a baseline of your current physical status and is the best means to increase control of the symptoms, assisting the medication.

Why don’t many physiotherapists understand Parkinson’s?

Parkinson’s is a specialised condition with a wide range of symptoms. Specific guidelines have been developed through extensive research, in order for a physiotherapist/Exercise Physiologists to be able to deliver optimal care to patients with PD. These guidelines are available to all therapists and we recommend that the therapist has undertaken the specific training required to treat this condition.

Why do some GP’s tell me not to exercise and that it won’t help with managing the condition.

Speaking with a Parkinson’s specialist is always the best way to manage Parkinson’s. It is a specialised condition with many varied symptoms.  Recent research advancements into exercise as a form of treatment are increasing. Please direct your medical practitioner to our website to review the recent research papers supporting exercise as a treatment benefiting Parkinson’s.

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