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Parkinson’s and Adapted Physical Activity

Adapted physical activity is a therapeutic treatment complementary to medication. It helps to better manage Parkinson’s disease symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease.

Adapted physical activity can help you regain control of your disease, limit the impact of some symptoms and even slow down the process of neuron degeneration. You therefore have the chance to take action in improving your quality of life and prolonging your autonomy.

Physical activity has many benefits. Many people living with Parkinson’s disease find that adapted physical activity is a good way to take back control of their symptoms and fight the disease. 

Physical activity especially impacts symptoms of the disease and physical and mental health.

  1. Benefits of adapted physical activity on Parkinson’s disease symptoms

    • Relaxes your muscles and therefore controls rigidity
    • Reduces fatigue through improved physical fitness to perform daily tasks
    • Improves balance, walking and coordination
    • Reduces risks of falls
    • Promotes better sleep
    • Improves gastrointestinal health and constipation
    • Helps manage anxiety and depression
    • Improves cognitive functions
  2. Benefits of adapted physical activity on physical health

    • Improves or maintains muscular health (strength, endurance, flexibility, agility)
    • Improves or maintains cardio-respiratory health
    • Contributes to bone health and reduces the risk of osteoporosis
    • Prevents many chronic diseases, such as cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease
    • Contributes to prolonged autonomy and a better quality of life
  3. Benefits of adapted physical activity on mental health

    • Boosts your mood
    • Contributes to feeling proud, confident and improving your self-esteem
    • Improves your social life if done in a group
    • Reduces pain perception
    • Improves your ability to cope with stress
    • Helps prevent and manage depression and anxiety
    • Delays the onset of dementia

Ideally, you should start adapted physical activity at the beginning of your disease. The earlier you start, the greater the benefits will be.

You will still benefit from significant health improvements if you start in a later stage of the disease.

To get the most out of your training, gradually increase the intensity and time you devote to adapted physical activity on a daily basis.

Age and Parkinson’s reduce physical resistance and energy levels, which could make physical activity more painful. As time goes by, the exercises become less and less engaging. You may also have less time to do these activities that you enjoy less and less. This lack of interest is therefore very common, especially in very sedentary societies like ours. Lack of physical activity can accelerate physical and cognitive decline.

Adapted physical activity is currently the only therapeutic option available for everyone at an affordable price. It helps to improve your life with Parkinson’s disease, prevent the appearance of the most severe symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.

You can always participate in adapted physical activity no matter your age and limitations. For example, those with joint problems can participate in aquatic activities and those with balance problems can enjoy the stationary machines available in gyms.

Changing your lifestyle is not easy. Start by making active choices in your daily life:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Get off the bus one stop earlier
  • Park further away from stores to force yourself to walk more
  • Take more healthy walks
  • Increase your opportunities for walking and be physically active during projects around the house
  • Transfer your weight from one leg to another when you are waiting in line
  • Clean the house yourself at your own pace
  • Clean the house yourself at your own pace
  • Play with your grandchildren
  • Do stretching exercises in your bed upon waking up
  • Leave the TV remote in a spot that will force you to get up to change the channel

Your outlook on physical activity will change once you have implemented these habits. It is not only for young athletes in gyms.

All activities that increase your heart rate, make you sweat and tire you out are beneficial. These aerobic exercises are at the heart of your treatment.

You can also find activities that increase your mobility and help you improve your balance and gait.

Start by finding a safe activity that you enjoy and pushes you to your limits. You can also find partners (friends, family) who will help motivate you to be active while helping you maintain your social network.

You can also be physically active without leaving your home by following online exercise programs developed by professionals or doing exercises found in our physical activity guide.

Put yourself in a good position to be active:

  • Wear comfortable clothing and athletic footwear
  • Wear closed, flat-heeled shoes
  • Listen to music
  • Breathe deeply while exercising
  • Perform the exercise without pain
  • Exercise when medication is most effective
  • Exercise regularly and integrate it into your daily routine
  • Try different activities
  • Have fun with the people you love

All adapted physical activities that challenge you, you enjoy and you are able to do three times a week are suitable.

Physical activity starts to have an effect on Parkinson’s disease symptoms when it is done for 30 minutes, three times per week.

Physical activity does not seem to have any benefits when done less than this. If you were sedentary and you are only starting to exercise, take a progressive exercise approach in terms of the difficulty and effort. Gradually increase the frequency, length and intensity of your physical activity. By choosing suitable exercises, you should be able to workout three times a week in no time.

Beyond three 30-minute sessions per week, any additional day tends to reduce the severity of symptoms in the long term.

Perseverance is your key to success. You should follow three sessions per week, every week of the year.

As your disease progresses, you may feel the need to reduce the intensity of exercises or choose more adapted physical activities. When you do, you should still exercise three times per week.

Vary the type of exercises that you do and try to choose some that engage your entire body. Alternate between cardiovascular, flexibility and strength training.

There are many physical activities that have substantial benefits on Parkinson’s disease symptoms:

  • Walking outside or on a treadmill
  • Nordic walking
  • Biking or using a stationary bike, depending on the weather
  • Swimming
  • Water aerobics
  • Boxing
  • Tennis
  • Badminton
  • Dance
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi
  • Wii Fit video game console

Make sure to take rest periods when you exercise so that you avoid pain and do not exceed your personal limits.

You can gradually set goals and keep track of your progress in a calendar or journal. Visually seeing this progress is very motivating. 

Not all types of physical activities are safe for everyone. Choose an adapted physical activity suitable for your limits and use safe equipment (comfortable sport shoes, light clothing, etc.).

If your symptoms are mild, focus on vigorous, high-intensity exercise that makes you hot and sweaty. Try gym sessions with a trainer, running, biking, tennis and boot camp classes.

If your symptoms are getting worse, choose exercises that require moderate effort. For example, take brisk walks, go Nordic walking, practice yoga, Tai Chi or any other activity adapted to Parkinson’s disease (ex. boxing or water aerobics classes for people with Parkinson’s).

If your symptoms are quite severe, do exercises that focus on the movements needed to perform daily activities. Try to do exercises while sitting in a chair or standing on something solid.

Kinesiologists are health professionals that specialize in physical activity. They use movement as a means of prevention, treatment and performance.

Before starting physical activity or an exercise program, they can evaluate your physical condition and develop a safe and personalized plan adapted to your needs.

They will then accompany you in carrying out your program and help you adopt an active lifestyle.

If you attend training sessions with coaches or instructors, talk to them about your condition and make sure they know your limits.

You can practice several physical activities by yourself without support directly from your home. Download our physical activity guide or follow online exercises developed by health professionals.

Group exercises help you stay motivated and often provide you with professional guidance. You can also join exercise groups dedicated to people with Parkinson’s disease. Contact your local CLSC or care team for more information.

Some fitness or rehabilitation centres also offer adapted physical activities.

You can participate in your city’s sports program at a lower cost or take courses in specialized schools or centres.


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