Celebrating the active Parkinson's community for International Women's Day

To mark International Women's Day, we are celebrating just some of the thousands of women in the UK who either help to deliver our physical activity programmes or have found new ways to be active with Parkinson's.

What is International Women's Day? 

International Women's Day is a global awareness day that celebrates the cultural, social and economic contributions and achievements that women have made and continue to make. 

The theme for 2024 is "Inspiring Inclusion" and we want to highlight our inspiring physical activity community who are helping us to promote positive messages about being active with Parkinson's.  

Being active when you live with Parkinson's can be one of the best ways to help you manage the condition. For International Women's Day, we spoke to a small group of participants and activity providers about their experiences and reflections on the importance of being active with Parkinson's.  


Jackie was diagnosed with Parkinson's when she was 56, and despite receiving advice from healthcare professionals, she had no idea about the importance of being active with the condition. That was until a friend's challenge to climb Snowdon changed everything. 

Jackie says: "When I was diagnosed, I told my consultant that I walked every day in local woodlands. He was horrified and told me I had to avoid uneven ground as I was a ’high falls risk’. And now here I was, having just climbed a mountain!

"I started to think that perhaps if I could set myself a monthly challenge it would serve as a positive focus, a reminder of living for today and what may be possible – and that’s how it began, this new life of mine. 

"Although most of the challenges are very physical, the psychological benefits are paramount. They help me feel that I’m not defined by my diagnosis – that I’m capable of fighting back and not giving in. I take each day as it comes, but I know I’m going to be OK. I have a future. Everything is not over and I can cope."


Beth is a physical activity provider for people with Parkinson's and other long term health conditions. Since 2020, Beth has been operating Bounce Back Exercise, a physical activity initiative that helps people to get active together online, or in person. 

Beth says: "While studying for my degree in Sport and Exercise Psychology I became fascinated by the ways certain exercise could benefit people with Parkinson’s and other long term health conditions by delaying progression and helping to manage symptoms. 

"I felt that there was a lack of provision in the UK and in 2020, I started Bounce Back Exercise to create more education, opportunity, and support for people with Parkinson’s and other long term health conditions, and to give more people an opportunity to experience the benefits of being active.  

"Participants always leave the classes feeling positive and more energised. It is wonderful to see group members become stronger, more energised, and confident about their own ability."   


Jo has lived with Parkinson's since 2017, but an interest in music has helped her to enjoy an active life with the condition in a fun and social way.  

Jo says: "I first experienced exercise drumming during the COVID-19 lockdown and found it to be really uplifting. It was so much fun that I decided to raise funds to start up a local drumming group in Elgin, Scotland. Sharon, our instructor, agreed to be the (very enthusiastic) drum lead and I applied for grant funding, and so Parkinson’s Beats was formed. 

"Since then, our group has gone from strength to strength and it's now into its second year, and I'm so proud of what we've achieved in those first 12 months. In 2023, I was invited to present some of the research results from the drumming classes at the World Parkinson Congress in Barcelona (among other events) and together, the group has also performed at the Parkinson's sponsored walk in Inverness and even appeared in the Press and Journal newspaper. 

"There are new plans in place to expand the reach of Parkinson's Beats so that other groups in Scotland can join in the fun and find out how drumming can help them live well with Parkinson's."

Maria and Sally

Maria and Sally are chartered physiotherapists who launched an online exercise community for people with Parkinson’s in 2016, called Reach Your Peak. Together they developed a new online gym to help more people with Parkinson's get active in a fun and engaging way. 

In 2023, the team launched Get Started, a project that has created an online community to empower people with Parkinson’s to be active at a time and place that suits them.

Following the success of the project, Maria and Sally have now launched a hybrid class called Get Started Local which gives people the opportunity to meet online and in person at their local leisure centre and to follow the class together.

Maria explains: "We want to ensure that every person who receives a Parkinson’s diagnosis understands the importance of physical activity and can find the support to help them manage their Parkinson’s and live well with the condition."


Following her Parkinson's diagnosis, 2022 would be the year that changed Annie's life. 

Annie says: "I was 54, I had Parkinson’s and in a bid to manage my condition-induced apathy, it was time to try something new. Keeping active was always my way to fight the 'apathy beast' but it was becoming more challenging to do it on my own, that was until I found out about walking football. Being part of a new team at Northern Lights Walking Football was something special and I will always be grateful to those who encouraged me to keep trying. In July 2022, I was the first woman to be selected for the England Parkinson's Walking Football team.

"I knew there were more women who would benefit from being part of a walking football team and inspired by the rise of the women’s game, I decided it was time to create a team for women with Parkinson's. This was a chance to build a Parkinson's sisterhood through football, and so, the Parkinson's Pioneers Women’s Walking Football Community was born.

"Women from all over the UK joined us for the very first Parkinson's Pioneers training session in June 2023 and we are now a 20-strong team. I am so proud of the positive, funny and feisty women that have joined us, not just for their willingness to learn, but for the ways they support each other.

"The Parkinson's Pioneers are the first Parkinson's women's walking football team in the world and so with laughter, friendship, strength, hope and optimism, we continue to grow and face the future with Parkinson's together." 


"When people ask me how I stay active with Parkinson's, I often say that boxing and strength training are what really work for me. I enjoy the feeling of getting stronger, whilst doing something that can help to reduce the risk of injury in the future. 

"Group exercises or activities with other people living with the condition is something I also recommend, as the mutual respect, camaraderie and support are invaluable. 

"I also find it's important to keep trying new things and never be afraid to take up new forms of physical activity, as there's always something to keep you motivated. You are less likely to compare yourself negatively when trying new forms of Parkinson’s activities, which tends to take the pressure off."


As an Associate Dean in the School of Health Sciences at Robert Gordon University, Julie has helped to co-found and support the development of the Parkinson's UK Exercise Hub alongside Neurological Physiotherapist, Beccy Oliver. Julie also works with the Parkinson's community and academic professionals to raise awareness of the benefits of being active with the condition and how regular physical activity is more likely to help people live well with Parkinson's.

Julie says: "Different types of physical activity are beneficial for people with Parkinson’s. What is important is developing exercise programmes that meet individual needs, and that they enjoy. Seeing a physiotherapist who understands the complexity of Parkinson's and who can prescribe targeted and tailored rehabilitation is so important to provide people with Parkinson's with the strategies and tools that they need to optimise function, and participation in meaningful everyday tasks."

Christine and the Nottingham Nordic walkers

As a retired PE teacher, Christine has always loved being active - and being diagnosed with Parkinson’s 6 years ago hasn’t dimmed her passion. She has recently become a Nordic walking instructor and credits it with giving her a sense of hope. 

Christine says: "I was fortunate to be encouraged to become a British Nordic Walking instructor in March 2023 and I started instructing 2 groups in June 2023. It has truly been a humbling experience to see so many people take the opportunity to be part of my Nordic walking sessions. I am the first woman with Parkinson's to become an instructor and it is a privilege to be part of this project, and to support such a wonderful community.

"Nordic walking gives us all more than just physical benefits, it is also fantastic for mental and social wellbeing. My groups are growing and I now have 45 people taking part, most live with Parkinson's and their carers and friends often join in too." 

Participants from Christine's Nordic walking group also gave their experiences of taking part in the sessions and being active as a group.  

Gail says: "I have been Nordic walking since 2022 and in that time I can definitely say that it has enabled me to meet so many lovely people who have become firm friends. Nordic walking has also helped me improve my fitness, supported my posture and allowed me to sleep well, I fully intend to keep Nordic walking for as long as I can." 

Liz says: "Christine leads a fantastic, all inclusive, weekly Nordic walking session. The group is determined, enthusiastic and optimistic. The benefits of being outside (come rain or shine) are great and combine that with the Nordic walking exercises, together with friendly chat and you can’t beat it, for me it’s a great way to start the week."

Get active with Parkinson's

If you're feeling inspired to try something new or you want to know more about the benefits of being active with Parkinson's, you can find out more on our physical activity page.