Parkinson’s: You Got To Move

“Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being” Plato

“Exercise: you don’t have time not to” George A. Sheehan

Introduction: You know what I am getting ready to say? Exercise is medicine. The verdict is out; exercise is especially beneficial for those with Parkinson’s. Some form of exercise is always suitable for older adults, but it is worthwhile for someone with Parkinson’s.

To remind you, at all levels of Parkinson’s, you can start exercising today and reap the benefits of your work. If your symptoms are early in the disorder’s progression, be vigorous, and exercise extensively and hard. If your symptoms have moderately progressed, try to focus on the areas most affected by Parkinson’s. Someone with more advanced symptoms will still benefit from exercise. However, they must be careful as their balance and movements will be altered. Thus, exercise can help everyone with Parkinson’s, no matter the stage of their disorder. The boxer Gene Tunney said, “To enjoy the glow of good health, you must exercise.” This quote is especially relevant for anyone with Parkinson’s.

If you want more background reading (topics include science, overviews, technology, philosophy, quotes, etc.) about exercise derived from this blog site, at the end of the blog post are some previous posts to refer back to for further information.

“It is exercise alone that supports the spirits, and keeps the mind in vigor.” Marcus Tullius Cicero

The Parkinson’s Outcomes Project: In a large study funded by the Parkinson’s Foundation, physical activity for only 2.5 hours/week benefited people-with-Parkinson’s (PwP). Exercise slows the decline in quality of life for PwP. Furthermore, their results suggest that partnering with a physical therapist early in the disorder’s progression can benefit the PwP, especially in preventing hospitalization and falls.

Not surprisingly, exercise for a PwP improves various symptoms, including flexibility, balance, stiffness, tremors, grip strength, motor coordination, posture, and walking.

The brain is much like the heart, and exercise and physical activity have been shown to help your cardiovascular system. So think about it this way, if it is suitable for your heart, it will be equally good for your brain. Furthermore, exercise will improve your mental health, reduce the impact of depression in PwP, improve sleeping patterns, and put you in a better mood.

“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.” Hippocrates

Is There a Best Exercise for Parkinson’s?

Yes and no. If you enjoy a specific activity, and it gets you moving, that’s great, do it. 

My philosophy about exercise follows this tenet, “Slowing the Menace Named Parkinson’s” favors rigorous training, which is the best for your brain and heart and can (over time) alter the impact of Parkinson’s > some exercise/physical activity is still acceptable in attempting to hold back Parkinson’s > being sedentary and doing little to no movement is not very helpful to slow down your Parkinson’s.

If exercise gets you moving, then keep doing it. That is what matters. Here are some suggestions (listed alphabetically): boxing, cycling, dancing, Pilates, power walking, running, tai chi, and yoga. Aerobic exercise is essential; you need to get your heart rate elevated to 50-75% of your resting heart rate. Keep in mind that the higher the intensity, the better the benefit. In other words, get moving, keep moving, and start sweating.

How to determine your maximum heart rate- The maximum heart rate is 220 beats per minute (bpm). Therefore, if you are 65, your calculation would be 220 – 65 = 155 heart rate maximum (HR max). To calculate your heart rate in the ‘aerobic’ range for one’s heart rate (~75 percent of your max heart rate), multiply 155 by 0.75 (max intensity) to get 116 bpm. So an excellent aerobic range to focus on is from 50-80%, and this range for someone 65 would be 78-124 bpm.

“Patients should have rest, food, fresh air, and exercise – the quadrangle of health.” William Osler

Do you Know What I am Suggesting? Some of you think, “I have not exercised since 5th grade in elementary school physical education class.” Others may think, “This will make me sweat, and I do not like perspiring.” And even some are thinking. “I may have to get down on the floor to exercise, and the floor is not where I find comfort.” Additionally, someone may react by saying, “My workout clothes and shoes are used only to do yard work nowadays.”

Yes, the exercises and physical activities described here will make you sweat. Exercising may require you to get down on the floor and introduce you to things you have not felt in many years— my apology to everyone. However, routine (and vigorous) exercise is more important to your health than just a few uncomfortable movement scenarios. It is not asking you to sacrifice a lot, albeit dedicating a few hours per week to improve your quality of life. And the benefits of exercise/physical activity against your Parkinson’s far outweigh any downside in the exercise routine(s). So take a chance, try it, and see if there is a benefit to the sweat you generate. Do you feel better, healthier, less stiff, sleeping better, and managing your symptoms from Parkinson’s than before your days of no exercise?

Science and clinical studies are showing a lot of good benefits from exercise. This blog post does not describe/discuss/detail the scientific studies that reveal exercise/physical activity is neuroprotective and can slow the progression of Parkinson’s. I have previously written about many of these scientific advances (see the bottom of this blog post). If you want papers that I have published in peer-reviewed journals reviewing the benefits of exercise on Parkinson’s, see the citations at the end of this post.

“Exercise is labor without weariness.” Samuel Johnson

The Latest Recommendations for PwP and Exercise*:
The key to exercise is your safety.
The best benefit of exercise is neuroprotection.
The ultimate result of exercise is improved quality of life.
The reward from exercise is slowing the progression of Parkinson’s.

Aerobic exercise– Plan three days per week for 20-30 minutes per session of continuous movement at a moderate (50-70% HR max) to vigorous intensity (70-85% HR max).
Strength training– Plan two to three non-consecutive days per week at 20-30 minutes per session to strengthen the major muscle groups using resistance, speed, or power focus.
Balance– Plan to practice maintaining one’s balance at least two to three days per week.
Stretching– Plan to stretch daily, and if possible, several times per day.

*Medical Disclaimer: As with anything you read here, please consult your Neurologist before beginning any form of exercise/physical activity. While it generally is safe, that does not mean it is right for you to start exercising for your Parkinson’s without your physician’s input.

“I do it as a therapy. I do it as something to keep me alive. We all need a little discipline. Exercise is my discipline.” Jack LaLanne

“You Got To Move” by Mavis Staples and Levon Helm: For a while, I have been trying to pair up topics on Parkinson’s with great music. The theme for exercise is getting us to move, and the title/theme of this blues anthem is You Got To Move. The music is upbeat and aims to get you to move. 

The “Last Waltz” was the Band’s farewell concert on 11/25/1976. Many rock stars played in the show, including Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Muddy Waters. Also present was Mavis Staples. Mavis is an American rhythm, blues, gospel singer, and civil rights activist. She rose to fame as a member of her family’s Band, the Staple Singers. At the Last Waltz, she performed with Levon Helms, a vital member of the Band. They were reunited in 2011, the year before Levon Helm died of cancer, and recorded an album together. The album they recorded was named Carry Me Home.

The first single from the album was an uplifting version of “You Got To Move,” a traditional blues song previously recorded by the legendary Mississippi Fred McDowell. Upon Levon’s passing, Mavis said, “It never crossed my mind that it might be the last time we’d see each other. He was so full of life and so happy that week. He was the same old Levon I’d always known, just a beautiful spirit inside and out…We hugged and hugged and hugged. I just held on to him. I didn’t know it’d be the last time, but in my heart and in my mind, Levon will always be with me because I take him everywhere I go.”

Enjoy their shared passion for music and life. Enjoy the upbeat nature of the song. With lyrics like “You got to move, you got to move / You got to move, you got to move,” this song will get you smiling and moving!

Lyrics to You Got to Move by Mavis Staples and Levon Helm

You got to move, you got to move
You got to move, you got to move
Now when the Lord gets ready
She’ll got to move, you got to move

You may be high (you may be high)
You may be low (you may be low)
You may be rich, you may be poor (may be poor)
But when the Lord gets ready
You’ve got to move, she’ll got to move

You may run, can’t get caught
You may hide, can’t be found
But when the Lord gets ready
You’ve got to move, she’ll got to move

You’ve got to move (you’ve got to move)
You’ve got to move (you’ve got to move)
You’ve got to move (you’ve got to move)
She’ll got to move (you’ve got to move)
But when the Lord gets ready
You’ve got to go, she’ll got to go (you’ve got to go)

You’ve got to move, move (move, move)
You’ve got to move (you’ve got to move)
You’ve got to move
She’ll got to move (you’ve got to move)
When the Lord, when the Lord
When the Lord gets ready
You’ve got to move

Oh yeah, oh yeah
You’ve got to move, yeah

Source: Musixmatch

Some Blog Posts on Exercise/Physical Activity and Parkinson’s:

DateBlog Title (Click on the title below to get sent to the appropriate URL)Brief Synopsis of Post
2022/10/21Exercise and Neuroprotection in Human Parkinson’s: The Long and Winding RoadA review of two major exercise/PD studies and a description of the brain’s response to exercise.
2022/09/11Persistent Exercise and Physical Therapy Improve Motor and Non-Motor Symptoms of Parkinson’sDefining exercise and the role of physical therapy in Parkinson’s.
2021/09/10Reflection on Friday- Exercise is Medicine  A reminder about the importance of exercise to rehabilitate and re-train your brain for someone with Parkinson’s.
2020/02/16Playing Golf in the Presence of Parkinson’s and Some Motivational Quotes for Exercise  Golf is a wonderful sport requiring physical skills and cognitive function with many benefits.
2019/11/21Go FAR and Be ADEPT With Exercises For Parkinson’sMy philosophy about applying exercise to treat your Parkinson’s.
2019/08/02Prescription for Parkinson’s: Exercise is MedicineA mantra to apply as a prescription for Parkinson’s if you believe that exercise is medicine
2019/04/052019 Parkinson’s Awareness Month- 12 Rules of Life With ExerciseA short list of 12 rules for exercise in the presence of Parkinson’s.
2019/04/172019 Parkinson’s Awareness Month (Part 2)- Exercise  Various videos were posted about exercise.
2018/04/09Parkinson’s Awareness Month: The Science Behind How Exercise Slows Disease Progression  Scientific evidence for the neuroprotective effect of exercise in Parkinson’s.
2017/02/209 Things to Know About Exercise-induced Neuroplasticity in Human Parkinson’sHopefully, these reasons will convince you that exercise is neuroprotective in Parkinson’s.
2016/05/04Parkinson’s Treatment With Dopamine Agonist, Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), and ExerciseExercise can be considered a form of CAM.
2015/04/16Meditation, Yoga, and Exercise in Parkinson’s  An overview of three things that are good for you to do, especially if you have Parkinson’s.
2015/03/14Exercise and Parkinson’s  An overview of the benefits of exercise in Parkinson’s.

Some Published Papers on Exercise/Physical Activity and Parkinson’s:
Hall, M.-F.E., and F.C. Church. Integrative Medicine and Health Therapy for Parkinson Disease.  Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation 36.3 (2020): 176-186. https://bit.ly/3kIDY2K

Hall,M.-F.E., and F.C. Church. Exercise for Older Adults Improves the Quality of Life in Parkinson’s Disease and Potentially Enhances the Immune Response to COVID-19. Brain Sciences 10.9 (2020): 612.  https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3425/10/9/612

Church, F.C. Treatment Options for Motor and Non-Motor Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. Biomolecules (2021): 11, 612. https://doi.org/10.3390/biom11040612

Bliss, R.R. and F.C. Church. Golf as a Physical Activity to Potentially Reduce the Risk of Falls in Older Adults with Parkinson’s Disease. Sports (2021): 9, 72. https://doi.org/10.3390/sports9060072

“The Greeks understood that mind and body must develop in harmonious proportions to produce a creative intelligence. And so did the most brilliant intelligence of our earliest days – Thomas Jefferson – when he said, not less than two hours a day should be devoted to exercise. If the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence, was Secretary of State, and twice President, could give it two hours, our children can give it ten or fifteen minutes.” John F. Kennedy

Cover Photo Image by Erich Westendarp from Pixabay

Internal Photo Image by Mabel Amber from Pixabay

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