Exercises to improve gait

Parkinson’s Nurses in Action – Brian and Barbara Grant
13th May 2021
Bob McDonald Bega Valley Support Group
13th May 2021

Exercises to improve gait

Exercises to improve gait

Parkinson’s causes changes in walking.  This occurs due to the nervous system not being able to send the messages correctly to the muscles – not the muscles themselves.

Therefore, to improve your walking you must give your body stimulus to activate the nerve pathways.  This can be done by doing complex activities and exercises such as those mentioned below.

These will be a great add-on to your regular exercise which will work excellently in conjunction with your other therapies such as physiotherapy, speech therapy, nutrition, and pharmaceutical routines.  However, be mindful that your body will only change according to the amount you challenge it.

Improving muscle strength or muscle flexibility of will not change a movement pattern.  The brain signal also needs be changed.

To improve someone’s balance we must take them out of balance.  Being out of balance (unstable) comes with risks.

It’s not easy or quick and is mentally as well as physically challenging.  These activities are some movements that the brain needs to reprogram new patterns, switching on more nerves that will improve how the body moves.

The Squat

Builds functional strength in the legs and no matter what level you are at, there is a way you can perform this exercise.

You can hold onto a walking frame or poles. Commence from a seated position using you frame or sticks to assist with the squat up movement and to lower yourself down with control.


The Lunge

Similar to the squat, the lunge will improve leg strength.  However, the legs being placed in forward

and backward positions simulate the walking action more closely – and challenges and improves balance.

The lunge uses diagonal movement i.e. left leg, right arm, stimulating diagonal nerve activity.

Line drill 

This exercise is used to assess an athlete’s flexibility and stability.  However, as it challenges and improves balance and stability, it’s a great exercise for improving gait.

Toe touch drill

This exercise works static balance on one leg and the ability to transfer weight through different directions which is important for gait.  It also strengthens weak glute muscles.

Progress Walking Difficulty

Increase the intensity of your walking i.e. longer or faster strides or both.  This will use more nerves through the body and recruit more muscles.
To increase intensity and variety into stimulating your nervous system, try using small hurdles of various heights to initiate lifting the leg over things.

Sensa Mat


Walking on a Sensa mat fires more sensory nerves within your feet which has been shown to improve motor nerve function within your feet and up through the rest of the leg.

The Sensa mat also improves your foot stability and can be used as a tool to increase difficulty of any exercise for progression.


When working on balance, stability, agility, or any exercise in which you may feel unsteady, have someone with you to assist.

Use something to help your stability, such as sticks, a walking frame, parallel bars, stable chair, or wall whenever is necessary.


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