Author: Johanna Stiefler JohnsonPublished: 28 October 2021
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In a new episode of the Parkinson’s Life podcast,physiotherapist Mariella Graziano and Mirjam Holzel, a person with Parkinson’s, explore the relationship between the condition and fitness – and share their tips on how to keep moving
When Belgium-based Mirjam Holzel was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2014, one of the first things her neurologists mentioned was how essential exercise would be.
Recalling the life-changing moment in the latest episode of the Parkinson’s Life podcast, ‘How to keep moving with Parkinson’s’, Mirjam remembers her doctor saying: “You need to move – and do it on a very regular basis.”
But after phases of running with friends, walking on indoor machines and cycling, Mirjam found that periods of pain brought on by the condition were stopping her from keeping up an exercise routine.
“You just hit the nail on the head, Mirjam,” says physiotherapist Mariella Graziano, who joins Mirjam on the podcast. “We keep on saying to everyone with Parkinson’s, ‘Let’s keep fit, let’s move’. But when we do this, we may injure ourselves.”
So how can people with Parkinson’s carry on exercising, while working through the challenges of the condition?
A “personalised programme” for people with Parkinson’s
Mariella, who lives in Luxembourg, says one of her passions is “analysing and understanding movement” – which is why she’s been a physiotherapist for more than 30 years.
She helps people with Parkinson’s to find the routine that works best for them, looking at areas like cardiovascular health, strength and balance.
Physiotherapist Mariella Graziano.
“The thing that people with Parkinson’s need to accept is that the condition always touches the coordination of movement,” she says. “You have the stiffness, you have the rigidity, you have the slowness of movement. Without a personalised programme, and the coaching of an expert professional by your side, it will be difficult to get you through a whole life with this condition.”
For Mirjam, consistency has been key. “I noticed that once you stop or allow yourself a break, your condition goes back to zero within a few days,” she says. “Actually, you constantly have to start from zero again. And you have to find your motivation.”
With a persistent focus on staying fit, Mirjam has been able to work through back pain and get back on a low-impact exercise machine that‘s helping her to keep moving.
Have fun with it
Both Mirjam and Mariella agree that it’s vital to find a form of exercise you enjoy. From skipping to dancing to bopping to music – having fun can help movement to come naturally.
“Sometimes people come to me and say, ‘Exercises are boring, I don’t like them,” says Mariella, “So I say, ‘Why don’t we change the word?’” For example, if you love music, then “music, dance, movement and let’s say exercises – they can all go together”.
This approach has worked well for Mirjam. “I use music with everything I do … You need to find ways to make yourself comfortable. There’s just nothing you can continue maintaining without having fun.”
How do you keep your body moving? Hear more from our guests Mirjam and Mariella in the new episode of the Parkinson’s Life podcast – and let us know what you think by leaving a review.
If you’d like to share your story with us, get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mirjam and Mariella’s playlist
Feel the rhythm: listen to the songs Mirjam and Mariella use to help make exercise fun, motivating and empowering.
Angel by Massive Attack
I Left My Wallet in El Segundo by A Tribe Called Quest
This article is sponsored by Bial, whose ‘Keep it on’ website aims to inspire people with Parkinson’s to get active every day. The new training area offers a range of resources – from workouts and nutritional advice to cognitive and voice tips – all designed to keep people moving.
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