Exercise and advanced Parkinson's

If you have advanced Parkinson’s, staying active can be hard. But there are ways to make it easier. 

In this article, physiotherapist Bhanu Ramaswamy suggests how you can plan a routine that suits you and shares some simple exercises to get you moving. 

Physiotherapist Bhanu Ramaswamy smiling
By Bhanu Ramaswamy
Parkinson's Specialist Physiotherapist

Exercising for 2.5 hours per week can slow down the progression of Parkinson’s symptoms. Exercise doesn’t just mean going to the gym – there are lots of different ways to do it. Finding the best ways to keep active might seem tricky, but the following tips may help.

Think about what might help you

This could be specific equipment or support from other people. For example, if you can manage, walking with walking poles can help with balance. You might also find it helps to have someone with you when you exercise, or you could try a group exercise class in your area.

Exercising when ‘off’

If you’ve had Parkinson’s for a while you may experience ‘off’ periods, when it’s hard to start or keep moving. A physiotherapist can give you strategies to help you keep active and stay safe. 

Adapting your exercise

Be flexible and have a plan A, B, and even a C. For example, if you planned to go to an exercise class in the morning (plan A) but you’re finding it hard to get going, try a seated exercise routine at home (plan B), or do some exercises 
from your bed (plan C). 

Staying motivated

Keep an exercise diary. Ticking off exercises as ‘done’ can keep you motivated. It’s also helpful to think about overcoming obstacles that might stop you from exercising. A physiotherapist can help you with this. 
 

Seated exercise plan

If you’re unsteady on your feet, seated exercise may be safer and more manageable for you.

To do this exercise plan you’ll need a sturdy chair to sit on, hand weights (or objects that could be used as weights, such as cans of beans) and a timer. Warm up first, then try to do the main exercise as energetically as possible for 10 minutes, and cool down afterwards.

How to warm up

Punch your arms in the air, or march on the spot if you can manage it (or you could hold onto the chair or march your legs while seated). Do this for 1-2 minutes.

How to do the main exercise

At first, switch between a strength exercise and an aerobic one. Keep it simple and repeat the same ones often. Over time, aim to do all the strength exercises in a block (doing 10 slow and strong repetitions at a time), and then the aerobic moves. Work to feel a gentle muscle ache with the strength exercises, and to get out of breath with the aerobic ones. Build up until you can do each exercise for 2 minutes. When you can manage this, try using heavier weights. Keep pushing yourself.

To get started, hold your hand weights at mid-chest height. You should begin all the exercises below from the starting position. 

1
Strength

Start by slowly pushing one arm up to the ceiling, focusing on the height of the weight as it lifts. Stretch up as far as you can, then lower the weight before repeating the exercise with the other arm. This is one repetition. 

2
Aerobic

Punch your arms upwards (one arm at a time, but as fast as you can). 

3
Strength

Slowly reach one arm out to the side to shoulder height and bring it back down, then repeat this with the other arm. This is one repetition.

4
Aerobic

Punch your arms outwards to the side (one arm at a time, and as fast as you can).

5
Strength

Slowly reach one arm forward to shoulder height, then back to the mid-chest position. Repeat the exercise with the opposite arm. This is one repetition.

6
Aerobic

Punch your arms out forward (one arm at a time, as fast as you can).