Watch: 13 people with Parkinson’s on the impact of exercise

Health & Fitness

Author: Saskia MairPublished: 21 May 2020

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“What are the benefits of exercise?” A new global video project sees people with Parkinson’s share how staying active has helped them manage their symptoms – and encourages others with the condition to join in

People with Parkinson’s around the world – from Wales to Peru and Canada to New Zealand –share how exercise has impacted their life with the condition in a new video project.

In ‘What are the benefits of exercise?’ and ‘What keeps you motivated?’, participants show their routines – from weightlifting and running, to cycling and boxing – discuss the challenges they’ve faced, and highlight the effects of regular exercise, which include improving balance and posture, and supporting mental health.

They also contribute fitness tips for those who struggle to form a workout habit. “Find what you enjoy and use that to keep yourself moving,” suggests John Reyes from the USA who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s aged 36, while Jonny Acheson from the UK, who was diagnosed aged 41, recommends setting “a goal or challenge – and if at first you don’t succeed, just keep trying”.

People with Parkinson’s can struggle with a lack of motivation, due to reduced dopamine levels in the brain – but exercise has important physiological and psychological benefits.

Video creator Christine Jeyachandran, who lives in Peru, was diagnosed with the condition aged 37 and took up gymnastics to help manage her symptoms. She says that the experience inspired her to organise the project.

“I decided that I’d go whether I felt like it or not. As I advanced and improved my range of movement, it encouraged me to try harder things. I had to overcome apathy, doubts, fatigue and fear to get serious about exercising ­– but the benefits have been worth the effort.”

Christine has also made a ‘Before and After’ video, demonstrating how her symptoms have improved since starting her exercise routine. But, she says, showcasing stories from people of different ages, with varying experiences, is essential to persuade others to keep fit.

“I didn’t want people to say: ‘I couldn’t do that – you are younger and less affected than me’. So, I asked if others had benefited from exercise, and the videos say it all. These stories communicate with people with Parkinson’s better than scientific studies.”

And, although many are confined to their homes during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s still vital to keep moving.

“Society might be in lockdown, but Parkinson’s disease is ongoing,” she says. “In these times, it is harder to keep self-motivated, and if I don’t exercise my body stiffens up and dyskinesia increases.

“Being stuck in an apartment gets to me, but when I do my abdominal workout I feel so much better.”

Exercise and Parkinson’s

  • Research indicates that exercise can be neuroprotective – meaning it can slow down the progression of Parkinson’s. It can also provide physiological benefits
  • Ask for professional medical advice to find activities that suit your fitness and mobility level
  • Include a mixture of stretching, strengthening, weight bearing and balance exercises, alongside aerobic activity
  • Make sure you warm up first, and don’t try to do too much too quickly
  • Try to stay motivated and have fun!

Read more about exercise and Parkinson’s here.

Read more:

5 Parkinson’s exercise classes for keeping fit in lockdown

EPDA ExerciseCast: How to stay active during the coronavirus crisis

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