Move to Help Improve Parkinson’s

Laura Brieser-SmithParkinson’s disease results from the slow breakdown of the nerve cells in the brain that produce the chemical dopamine. Because a main function of dopamine is to control movement, common symptoms of Parkinson’s include uncontrollable tremors, rigidity of limbs, slow movements, stooped posture, and poor balance. While there is no cure for Parkinson’s, researchers have found that people with Parkinson’s who exercise show definite improvements in balance and coordination, posture, muscular strength and flexibility, control over movements (like walking), as well as greater self-confidence in ability to carry out daily tasks and better quality of life overall.

Because exercise is so beneficial, it is something you should include in your life. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you start your exercise program:

  • You do not need to exercise for a long period, as endurance levels are often lower with Parkinson’s. Fifteen minutes a day is all you need to do to see benefits. Of course, feel free to do more if you are able.
  • Do a light warm-up before jumping into more strenuous activities. Cold muscles are less able to move and stretch than are warm muscles. Also be sure to cool down at the end, rather than stopping abruptly.
  • Stretching is very important to loosen up tight muscles. Include stretches for all of your major muscles and joints.
  • Design your exercise program so that you can progress from easier exercises to more challenging ones as your fitness level increases. Don’t push your self too hard too soon by starting with extremely hard exercises right away. You will likely become frustrated and may even cause injury to yourself!
  • Always remember safety when exercising. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance in completing certain exercises. If your balance is poor, do seated exercises or hold onto the back of a chair if you are standing.
  • Perform exercises to the best of your ability…but don’t expect perfection! Try not to compare your performance with what you were able to do a year ago, or even yesterday. If you do the best you can each day, you are bound to see results.
  • Stop and rest if you start to feel overly fatigued, light headed, etc. You will be more effective overall if you do exercise in little bits, rather than overdoing.
  • Plan to exercise when your energy level is the highest. For many people this is earlier in the day. Remember, it is always a good idea to check with your physician before starting an exercise program.

Laura Brieser-Smith, MPH, RD, CHFS is the owner of Healthy Designs, LLC which provides nutrition counseling and personal training to clients in their homes or offices. She can be reached at 303-635-1131 or at

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