Even with the rain, Parkinson’s patients can find ways to exercise

Numerous clinical studies over the past several years have shown the benefits of exercise for persons with Parkinson’s disease.  Studies have shown that exercise can improve balance and quality of life. Animal studies suggest exercise might even slow the progression of the disease.

All of this means many people with Parkinson’s disease want to exercise as often as possible. As winter is now heavily upon us, the days have shortened and the rains have come. People with Parkinson’s may wonder how to keep up with their exercise routine that might have included walking, hiking or biking during the summer months.

Thankfully, there are plenty of good indoor options. A study published earlier this year showed the benefits of tai chi. Subjects who did tai chi twice a week for six months had improved strength, better balance, and fewer falls than the group that did not do tai chi.

If tai chi sounds like it moves too slowly for your pace or you prefer exercising with a partner, dance may be a good option. A number of studies have shown benefits of dancing, particularly tango. Most studies again looked at dancing twice a week.

Perhaps you could sign up for a Tuesday/Thursday tai chi class and Monday/Wednesday tango lessons.

When the spring comes again and you are ready to get back outside, consider getting your dancing partner on a tandem bike. Recent research suggests that forced exercise, where someone pushes you to go at faster than your natural pace, can offer added benefits. The study was done using a stationary tandem bike with the front rider setting the pedaling pace for the Parkinson’s rider on the back seat.

Amie Peterson, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Neurology
OHSU Parkinson Center of Oregon
OHSU Brain Institute