Five exercises that may help slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease

Mar 3, 2022

If you or someone you know is living with Parkinson’s disease, now is not the time to stop exercising. While Parkinson’s disease is one of the most common movement disorders, studies have shown one of the best ways to slow its progression is to actually get moving.

“Some of my patients complain of weakness, but their strength is actually normal,” says Dr. Jill Trumble, neurologist with St. Joseph’s/Candler Physician Network – Neurology and Medical Director of the SJ/C Movement Disorders Program. “It is their slowness of movement that makes them feel like they are weak.” Dr. Jill Trumble, St. Joseph's/Candler Neurologist

Slowness of movement, also known as bradykinesia, is one of four symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease. The other three are tremor or trembling, stiffness or rigidity and problems with balance and falls.

Parkinson’s disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system, affects more than 10 million people worldwide. There’s currently no cure for the disease because, although there are some theories, the cause is still unknown.

Parkinson’s can be treated with medication, but that won’t help with instability or progression of the disease as a whole. Physical therapy can help with balance, but what about the inevitable progression of the disease?

“The only thing that has shown in clinical trials to slow the progression of Parkinson’s is physical activity,” Dr. Trumble says. “It’s that important.”

Dr. Trumble has seen in her own patients how exercise improves symptoms and slows the progression of the disease. Some of physical activities recommended for Parkinson’s patients include:

  1. Aerobic exercise: Try cycling or using an exercise bike, walking, using a treadmill or swimming.
  2. Yoga: The stretching in yoga helps with stiffness.
  3. Tai Chi: This slow, peaceful exercise benefits your core and helps with balance.
  4. Boxing: No, we don’t want you to hit other people, but consider punching bags. Boxing helps with muscle strength, balance and agility.
  5. Golf: A recent study showed that golfing helps Parkinson’s patients improve their balance and their mobility.

“It does take encouragement. Some people don’t like exercise,” Dr. Trumble says. “But once they start, they feel a lot better. They see the improvement and then they start to get into it.”

As with any new exercise routine, patients should discuss it with their healthcare team before starting.

Related Article: Living with Parkinson’s disease: A St. Joseph’s/Candler patient shares her story


COMING SOON: If you are someone living with Parkinson’s disease or another movement disorder, you may be interested in our 2022 Movement Disorders Program Seminar. It’s going to be held Friday, April 8, from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Armstrong Center. It’s free and available in person or via Zoom. Learn more and register here.

How can we help you?