Enjoying an active life with Parkinson's: Simon's story

To celebrate Men's Health Week, we recently spoke to Parkinson's UK volunteer, Simon Russell, about the benefits of being active with Parkinson's and how regular trips to the gym help him manage his symptoms.  

When Simon was first diagnosed with Parkinson's, he couldn't have imagined how physical activity would change his outlook on the condition. And the positive impact a training course with Parkinson's UK would have on his life.

Speaking about his experience, Simon says:

"Not long after my own Parkinson’s diagnosis, I decided to sign up with Parkinson's UK as a Volunteer Educator. This meant I was visiting care homes on a regular basis and talking to staff about my own experience, so I could help them manage residents living with the condition.

"When I was conducting my care home visits, staff would often ask me questions about mobility and wellbeing for their Parkinson's patients.

"I then received an introduction to a training course which included the importance of physical activity when you live with Parkinson's. That really got me thinking about my own diagnosis and whether I could be doing more to stay active."

"I've never been afraid to try something new"

"I've always enjoyed being active and I tried all the usual sports when I was at school, you could usually find me playing football or rugby.

"That's not to say I was a star player. I was very middle of the road, but I was always happy to take part.

"As an adult, I've never been afraid to try something new, whether that's archery, fencing or judo. I even tried body surfing when I lived in Australia many years ago.

"Since my diagnosis, I've found that trying a mix of different activities can be the best for managing my symptoms.

"I've always enjoyed going to the gym at least 4 to 5 times a week since I retired. I find it often helps to try at least 4 to 5 different activities." 

Simon's gym workout includes: 

  • 15 minutes walking on the treadmill "to reduce my shuffle." 
  • 10 minutes on the balance ball "to help improve my balance."  
  • 10 minutes on the leg press "helps me build up strength in my legs."
  • 10 minutes on the lateral pull down "helps me to strengthen my neck muscles."
  • 30 minutes using the punch bag for better muscle strength.

"I enjoy using the punch bag the most as it really takes effort, plus it's a great cardio workout too." 

When Simon isn't visiting the gym, he can often be found playing at his local bowls club. 

"I usually play indoor bowls at least twice a week for a few hours.

"I used to play some friendly rounds of golf locally and that often had a big effect on reducing my symptoms."

"It's a really social atmosphere"

Since joining his local gym, Simon has established a 'gym bunnies group' featuring local people who are living with Parkinson's and want to stay active together.  

"It's a really social atmosphere. We all take part together and we try to keep each other motivated. Of course, my main motivation is holding back my symptoms and being active helps me to do that."

Simon's advice for someone who wants to start going to the gym:

  • "Speak to your GP or a Parkinson's nurse for advice about the right types of physical activity for you. 
  • "When you first visit your gym, speak to the staff and personal trainers about using the equipment correctly and what you want to achieve. They can help you set goals and keep you motivated.
  • "Identify any problem areas that you want to improve, or that would benefit from regular workouts.
  • "Remember to build up your workouts gradually and above all, enjoy it."  

Everyone Active offers free gym memberships for people with Parkinson's in England. 

To find your nearest Everyone Active gym, visit the Everyone Active website.

Get Active, Stay Active with Parkinson's UK

For more hints, tips and resources to help you start your active journey with Parkinson's, visit our physical activity web page.