Exercise for Patients with Parkinson’s Disease

Frequently Asked Questions About Exercise

Q: Why should I exercise?
A: Exercise has been shown to improve motor symptoms, flexibility, strength, balance, gait, health related quality of life, and overall function in people with Parkinson’s disease.

Q: Can I stop exercising when I feel like I am doing better?
A: A: Exercise must be continued in order to maintain the benefits. You should choose an exercise that you enjoy so you are more likely to continue to do it (walking, dancing, tai chi, etc).

Q: Q: How hard do I have to exercise?
A: Exercises should be intense and effortful. You should still be able to talk, but it should be difficult to carry on a conversation. For example: walking at a brisk pace versus strolling.

Q: I’m scared of falling during exercise? What can I do to minimize the risk of falling?
A: Be aware of your environment. Try to exercise in a well lit environment without obvious hazards like throw rugs or wires. Be especially careful when turning, trying to do two things at once, or carrying objects.

Q: I keep hearing about “cues.” Are cues helpful?
A: Using cues can help in specific situations. When walking auditory cues can lead to increased speed and taking bigger steps. Cues can also help decrease freezing in people who freeze. However, you need to keep using cues for them to work. Since cues work best in specific instances it may be best to use them at specific times. For example: saying “big steps” when crossing the street in a short amount of time, “1,2, 3, up” when standing up from a chair, or a placing a bright piece of tape as a visual cue to help cross over a certain threshold in your home.

Questions to Ask When Scheduling a Physical Therapy Appointment

  1. Does your clinic see people with Parkinson’s Disease?
  2. Do any of your therapists have special training in treating people with Parkinson’s Disease or other neurological conditions?

Questions to Ask Your Physical Therapist

  1. What can I do to make my home environment safer?
  2. I tend to have problems with ___________ (walking, getting out of bed, standing). What can I do to make this easier?
  3. I always fall or lose my balance when _________. Can we work on ways to prevent falling or improve my balance?
  4. What cues can I use to prevent freezing and help my walking?
  5. What exercises or stretches can I do to help my posture?
  6. What should I do if I fall? How should I get up from the floor?
  7. How can I conserve my energy so I can still function in the afternoon?
  8. Are there strategies for moving that will be helpful during “off” times?

Help and More Information

Speak with a licensed physical therapist who can answer questions about exercise, provide information about programs in the caller’s area and provide educational materials:
Toll Free Exercise Helpline (Sponsored by APDA and Boston University): 1-888-606-1688

Click here for more information about research supporting exercise in people with Parkinson’s disease.