As a person with Parkinson’s, do you think hiking is a viable exercise option? If your answer is a resounding “No!” you are not alone. If someone had told me in the past that I would take up hiking, I would have had a similar response. However, keep an open mind, and you may surprise yourself and those around you. Granted, hiking up Mount Everest is probably not your first choice, but there are other mountains you can climb and trails you can explore.
So, how does someone with the Parkinson’s symptoms of poor balance and a shuffling gait accomplish such a daunting task? The answer is one step at a time using trekking poles. These poles take some time to master, but it’s worth the effort to learn to optimize their benefits. Trekking poles encourage big and coordinated movements. They require the use of both arms, forcing one side of your body to work when it would prefer to be sitting on the sidelines. Your arms and legs work as a team, and each member must participate.
Hiking is not compulsory. As a person with young-onset Parkinson’s, I have many tools in my Parkinson’s toolbox, and I am continually looking for others. My trekking poles are one of my best tools, and I use them often. They are fantastic when I need a little extra help with balance. Besides, they look cool and are relatively affordable. Of course, fancy and expensive poles are available, but they’re not necessary — the only requirement is rubber feet.
A bonus of using trekking poles is they help to improve your posture. You might even become a little taller because rather than leaning forward, you’re standing up straight. With better posture comes improved balance and gait, and, most importantly, confidence. I have also seen others use poles to help with freezing by shifting their weight and using the feet of the poles as targets.
Start small, be smart, and most of all, stay safe. A gentle stroll around your house or along the sidewalk is an excellent way to begin. Once you are comfortable, try a local park or shopping mall. Before you know it, you will be on your way to bigger, better “mountains,’ and a more confident you. Happy trails!
Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.