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Exercising Your Parkinsons

David Fitzgerald

You may have heard Joe Duffy discuss the topic of Parkinsons Disease with a diverse panel of playwrights, actors and musicians. The importance of exercise was highlighted in managing their condition.

Parkinsons disease is a complex neurological disease that affects a person’s movements and mobility. It is estimated that 1.2 million people throughout Europe have the condition.

In the last 10 years, research has focused on the role exercise can play in managing Parkinsons Disease (PD). There is now an increasing weight of evidence supporting exercise as first-line therapy for this condition. As the interviewees described on the radio the physical system needs to be kept tuned because PD slows it down and livelihood can take a take a serious blow. Their advice:

Stay physically fit

However, in PD the tendency is towards inactivity and reduced levels of fitness. Overtime this may result in difficulty performing everyday tasks and loss of livelihood.

This interview is very timely as the 1st European Physiotherapy Guidelines for Parkinsons Disease has been published this week. This detailed document collates all currently available evidence supporting Physiotherapy intervention in managing Parkinsons.

It discusses the various forms of exercise that have been found to be beneficial for PD from resistance training, aerobic exercise (eg walking, cycling) to dance and tai chi.

It is recognised that Physical fitness is made up of 5 key components:

Balance control           Muscle strength         Coordination           Flexibility             Endurance


Crucially, a deficit in any of these can affect the performance of daily activities (eg sit to stand, walking, turning ) and livelihood.

Exercise classes are a great way of target physical fitness. Classes should incorporate a combination of the following :

  • Progressive resistance training
  • Cognitive movement Strategies to improve function
  • Large amplitude movements patterns
  • Balance re-education
  • Aerobic exercise ie increasing heart rate eg bike, treadmill
  • Functional re-education eg sit to stand

There is strong evidence that this type of program improves walking, balance, muscle strength, function and aerobic fitness.

We find that people who participate in an exercise class need less 1-1 personal treatment with their Neurophysiotherapist.

Also, the knowledge that other people in the class may experience similar problems can make it a relaxing environment in which to work and participants learn to support each other.

Key issues when exercising with Parkinsons

Commence immediately post diagnosis and continue though the course of the condition.

The type and intensity of exercise should take into consideration your level of ability, medical history and any specific areas of difficulty.

Your exercise program needs to be reviewed every 4-6 weeks to ensure an ongoing training effect.

Progressions must be made incrementally to monitor change.

Issues associated with PD i.e. stiffness, pain, slowness, should be addressed by a Chartered Physiotherapist specialised in neurological conditions who deals with Parkinson’s on a day to day basis.

Walking is usually affected in PD:- you may find you’re slower, turning is more difficult or your step is shorter.  Fortunately, there are strategies that can improve your walking pattern. Initially, it is better to see your NeuroPhysiotherapist on a 1-1 basis for maximum benefit and then incorporate these strategies into your exercise regime.


Exercise classes specifically for people with PD run at Dublin Physiotherapy Clinic are interactive, positive, great fun and are supervised by 2 Chartered Neurophysiotherapists. These are some of the comments made by class participants:

Weight training gave my upper body strength back –MM


It has greatly enhanced my tennis serve – GS


I have more strength and range of movement – MD


The class is now an essential part of my life – AN


I enjoy it so much I feel good for the rest of the week – CC


Overall level of fitness and confidence have improved – JC


Intense training under the guidance of a Physiotherapist AN

For further information call us on 01-8829174

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