Parkinson’s is a progressive condition that can result in the loss of smooth and controlled movement of your muscles and joints, as well as causing problems in maintaining a good posture, and with balance, general mobility and confidence. This can limit some activities of daily living. The positive benefits of following a regular exercise regime include maintaining your abilities, strengthening your muscles, increasing mobility in your joints and building up your general fitness and health. This will improve your capability to keep independent for as long as possible. Exercise is also very good for your general wellbeing and mood. As with all forms of exercise when you have Parkinson’s, you should consult your GP first to ensure your ability to undertake a programme. The purpose of exercising is primarily to work on your posture and balance by improving the connection between your mind and your body when you move. The emphasis is on rotational movements (as used in activities such as turning in bed, looking around, walking etc) and on keeping your posture erect during activities so that you are better balanced when you move.
What you need for this exercise programme
Exercises in sitting position – chair. Exercises in standing position – just ensure that you have enough space to swing your arms around and a chair behind you if you have problems with balance or low blood pressure. Loose-fitting clothes are recommended. The exercises start off simply (in the lying position), and involve only one part of your body. This allows you to concentrate initially on that part of your body, controlling the movement in as slow and co-ordinated a manner as you can manage. They progress to more complex exercises, going from sitting up into standing, thus demanding more concentration, flexibility, balance and co-ordination,
while controlling your posture. When you do the exercises for the first time, you may find it helpful to have another person with you, in case you feel unsteady, need the exercises to be read out to you or would just like someone to keep you company while you do the exercises!
When an exercise involves movement co-ordinated with breathing, remember not to carry the movement out when breathing in. First breathe out slowly, and then on the breath in, think about the movement you are about to perform and mentally prepare for it. Breathe out again slowly and, as you do so, perform the actual movement required by the exercise. If you can, take the breath in through your nose, making it slow enough as to fill the bottom of your lungs, so that you feel your rib cage gently pushing out to the side. As you breathe out, let the breath out slowly through your mouth. Never force the breath in or out, and keep your shoulders as relaxed as possible, otherwise you just add tension to the movement, making it less smooth and controlled. Try to use the relaxation part of the programme to practice your breathing. Further advice on breathing and problems with facial expression can be obtained from a speech and language therapist. See the PDS information sheet Speech and Language Therapy (code FS07). All of the exercises can be adapted. For instance, if you cannot get onto the floor, do the lying exercises on your bed. If you cannot stand for an exercise, do them while sitting up straight in a chair, but don’t lean against the chair back. You may wish to perform some of the standing exercises while holding onto a chair or rail for your own safety.
On the whole, the exercise programme should take about an hour and is best done at a time of day when your medication is working fully and you feel at your best. It has proved to be of most benefit to those in the earlier stages of Parkinson’s, although anyone can try the exercises. We recommend watching the dvd through once before attempting the exercises. This will help you to familiarise yourself with them first. However, always be sensible when you carry out an exercise, and be aware of your own limitations. If you are doing the exercises without the accompanying dvd, you may find it helpful when you first try this programme to have someone with you to read the instructions while you are performing them.
Remember that your condition may alter if you are tired, if your Parkinson’s becomes more pronounced or if your medications are changed. If you have any concerns at all about continuing with the exercise programme, please consult your GP, especially if you are experiencing symptoms such as dizziness or a low blood pressure.
For more information on Parkinson’s go to: http://www.parkinsons.org.uk