Remaining as physically active as possible helps to maintain physical functions, improving coordination and balance. The adage “Use or lose it” is particularly applicable to people with Parkinson’s disease. Numerous studies demonstrate that people who follow a regular and consistent exercise regimen, such as walking for 30 minutes each day, are able to maintain control of voluntary movement more effectively and longer into the course of the disease than those who do not have much physical activity. As well, most people enjoy being out and about, even if that just means walking around the block or around the yard. Physical activity is also good for relieving stress and improving mood.
Walking is the best form of physical exercise for most people with Parkinson’s disease because it exercises nearly all of the body’s muscle groups without putting much strain on the body. It helps the person to maintain eye-to-body coordination, which is essential for balance and coordination of movement. And it also presents an ideal opportunity to spend time with a loved one. Even when their Parkinson’s becomes fairly advanced, most people can still take short walks. It is important to take appropriate safety precautions; a person whose stability is unreliable should use a walking aid and walk with a companion.
People who are having on-off fluctuations can, through experimentation, learn to time periods of physical activity with their medication dosages so they are least likely to have problems such as freezing of gait. Such planning makes the activities more enjoyable as well as more effective. It also is important to plan the time for walks and other physical activities so there is no sense of a need to rush through them to get to something else.
Additionally, a physical therapist or occupational therapist might recommend specific exercises and activities to strengthen certain muscle groups or to teach different muscle groups to take over for those that are more severely affected by the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. They can be especially beneficial in addressing gait disturbances and fine motor movements such as those involving the hands and fingers. Exercises may include working with light weights or resistance devices such as bands. Activities that call on fine motor control, such as putting together jigsaw puzzles, are not physically strenuous but nonetheless help to keep neuromuscular paths as open as possible.