Exercises for People with Parkinson's Disease
Parkinson's disease is a challenging and progressive condition. It affects your ability to control your movements. Symptoms such as tremors, freezing and slow movements can limit your ability to walk, get in and out of a chair, and participate in daily activities. Research has shown that exercise can actually halt or slow the progression of this disease.
Parkinson's disease makes walking difficult. You may find a tendency to scuff your feet and take quick, small steps. Both put you at risk for a fall. In addition, PD tends to make you hold your arms stiff while moving, which can throw you off balance. To help, you should make walking a part of your exercise routine. As you walk, focus on taking large steps. Lift the toes and strike with the heel first. Then roll through your foot and push off the toes to come forward. Allow yourself to swing your opposite arm up to shoulder height as you step. So if your right foot is forward, your left arm should be, too.
PD also causes rigidity throughout the trunk muscles. To help combat this, sit up straight in a chair. Hold onto your elbows and lift your arms up to chest height. Your right hand is on your left elbow and your left hand is on your right elbow. Twist to the right, turning your head, shoulders and waist as far as you comfortably can. Look over your right shoulder. Slowly come back to center. Twist to the other side. Do 8 to 12 repetitions. Try to twist a little more on each repetition.
To stretch the trunk muscles and help open the chest, sit up straight in a chair. Clasp your hands behind your head. If your hands won't reach just touch your fingertips to the side of your head. Inhale and press your elbows back and open. To help keep the neck aligned, press the back of your head into your palms. Then exhale and bring your elbows forward and together as close as they will come without pulling your head forward. Do 8 to 12 repetitions. Try to stretch farther each time.
Seated Hamstring Stretch
If you have Parkinson's disease you may have a tendency to slightly lean forward while you stand and walk. There is a tendency to bend forward at the hips and stand with a rounded upper spine. This can pull on your lower back and hips and cause your hamstring muscles to tighten. To stretch your hamstrings, sit at the front edge of a chair. Extend your right leg out to the front and place your heel on the floor. Keep your left knee bent with the left foot flat on the floor. Put your hands on your left knee for support. Maintaining a straight spine lean forward until you feel a stretch up the back of the right leg. Do not drop your head or round the back. Pull up on the toes and flex your right foot for a deeper stretch. Try to straighten the right knee. Hold for 5 to 10 deep slow breaths. Repeat with the other leg.
If you have noticed that your speech has become softer you will benefit from exercising your lungs with deep breathing. Sit up straight in a chair or lie down in a comfortable position. Inhale through your nose and allow the stomach to push out. This lets the diaphragm muscle drop down and the lungs to expand. Then exhale through the nose as the abdomen relaxes. As the stomach moves in the diaphragm contracts, presses on the lungs and helps your lungs to expel air. Make each breath a little deeper and slower. Practice deep breathing for 10 to 15 minutes per day.
I hold a Master's degree in exercise physiology/health promotion. I am a certified fitness specialist through the American College of Spots Medicine and an IYT certified yoga teacher. I have over 25 years experience teaching classes to both general public and those with chronic illness. The above allows me to write directly to the reader based on personal experiences.