By: Dr. Matt Ford
When a person is told they have Parkinson’s disease (PD), he or she might immediately think of the debilitating effects of the disease. Will I not be able to leave my house? Am I going to fall when I try to walk? Will I be able to do simple things like go to the bathroom or brush my teeth? Persons with PD often get a case of the “yets.” Ask them: “Are you having any problems with your balance?” Are you having any problems sleeping or getting to the bathroom at night?” and the responses are: “Not yet.” Meaning, a person’s balance, sleep, and mobility at night are okay, but they anticipate they will have problems in the future. People with PD may think about the worst in the future and unfortunately it makes things worse in the present. Ellis and colleagues (2013) reported that persons low expectation (ie; case of the yets) and fear of falling become barriers to participating in exercise for persons who are independent.
PD is a progressive neurological disorder, which means there is no cure and symptoms can get worse over time; however, we cannot predict how severe the symptoms may become. No matter the current state of a person’s symptoms, it is important to be physically active each day. Research has shown that those individuals with PD who are self-confident, are physically active, and regularly exercise have a better quality of life. This is even the case for persons with more severe symptoms. Research has consistently shown that when persons with PD are physically active, they have better quality of life; therefore, no matter the severity of the disease, people need to believe that regular physical activity and exercise will help them live better with their PD.
- Identify the physical activities you enjoy doing. If you do not like the water, do not join a fitness center to use the pool. Start with physical activities you enjoy.
- If you are concerned about your safety in doing your favorite physical activity, consult your local physical therapist (PT). A PT can assess any safety risks and your current functional level, and he or she can also tailor a program for your needs and abilities.
- Do not sit for more the 45 minutes/hour. Sitting for extended periods of time is showing to be bad for your health. Each hour get up and move to do something physical. Take a lap around your house, inside or outside.
- Include walking as a part of your physical activity. Establish a walking schedule. You can track the time and distance you walk each day. Progressively increase the distance and/or time that walk.
- Use technology to track your physical activity. A smartphone (i.e., iPhone) can track what you do, how much, and when you do it. Seeing progress motivates people to keep going.
Regular physical activity will not only help you live with your PD symptoms, there is also the added benefit of improved health for your muscles, bones, heart, lungs, and brain. There will be days you may not feel up to walking, hiking, or just getting around the house, but remember that you will feel better if you are physically active versus if you are not.