Exercising with Parkinson’s Disease: Try It and See the Benefits

Exercising with Parkinson’s Disease: Try It and See the Benefits

I began taking Rock Steady Boxing classes about nine months ago. The exercise program is tailored for those with Parkinson’s disease, and if you’re like me, you’ve dragged your feet and refused to go for any number of reasons or excuses. Maybe there isn’t a class near you. Or perhaps you feel too tired and don’t think you’ll have enough energy to do what’s required. Maybe money or time is the issue.

Do me a favor. 

Just consider it

I was reluctant to go. Mostly because I’m an introvert — yes, I really am. I have to push myself to get out there. And so I did. I forced myself to check it out almost nine months ago, and I am still going. 

I recently read a discussion in a Parkinson’s Facebook group I belong to. Someone asked what decision others had made in their lives since their diagnosis that had made the most positive difference to their health. I was surprised by the number of answers about exercise. It seems logical to me now, but before attending boxing classes, I may have had a different response, such as increasing my chocolate intake.

We are meant to be active

A 2018 study looked at the reduction of movement in neurological diseases. Commenting on the research, one of its authors, Dr. Raffaella Adami, told the journal Frontiers that we are meant to “walk, run, crouch to sit, and use our leg muscles to lift things.”

According to the article, “Cutting back on exercise makes it difficult for the body to produce new nerve cells — some of the very building blocks that allow us to handle stress and adapt to challenge in our lives.”

The Parkinson’s Disease News Today forums are a place to connect with other patients, share tips and talk about the latest research. Check them out today!

When I joined my boxing class, I was surprised by the number and variety of exercises we had to do. I had figured that activities would be specifically related to boxing. We spend the first half of the class on exercises such as jumping jacks, squats, leg raises, jump-rope, stair steps, balance beam, ladder steps, box steps, pushups, lunges, planks, and various activities using punching bags, jelly bags, and speed bags. Then we practice punches with our coaches. We close out our session with a game or competition — my favorite part.

Many participants in the Facebook group discussion agreed that their decision to join a Rock Steady Boxing class had been beneficial. The next two most popular activities were walking and yoga. I don’t think that it matters which form of exercise you choose as long as you are doing something.

See the benefits

May I encourage you to start an exercise routine if you haven’t already. You’ll soon realize that you can do more than you could before, and you may find that your overall well-being has improved.


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.

Sherri was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s disease over 15 years ago. She can be found working in her garden, going for walks, taking pictures, or reading books to her three favorite grandkids. Sherri is taking life somewhat slower, and perhaps with guarded steps, but she’s not giving in.
Sherri was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s disease over 15 years ago. She can be found working in her garden, going for walks, taking pictures, or reading books to her three favorite grandkids. Sherri is taking life somewhat slower, and perhaps with guarded steps, but she’s not giving in.

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  1. pearl Fu says:

    i was in an exercise class like the one you described.Did very well. very rigorous i tried my best.But i could not keep up as the days passed,and my parkinsons worsened.i am very stiff and have trouble walking.my legs freeze after sitting, had p.more than 20 years.any hope of getting better??i still go to ecercise and work to the best of my ability.water aerobics ,yoga etc thanks stay at home most of the time.miss seeing people

    • Hi Pearl – I’m sorry to hear you aren’t getting any ‘better’, but to me it sounds like you’re doing really well, considering. What an example you are of persevering along this difficult road and an example of being tired and freezing and still pressing on in the midst of the battle. You hang in there and don’t give up. Somebody needs the example you are setting!

  2. Richard Truelove says:

    I go to yoga and two different RSB classes. I have been diagnosed with PD for 6 years, (and like many “parkies” I talk to at these classes, I can think of events more than 6 years ago that could have been Parkinson’s). The yoga is taught by a person with Parkinson’s and the RSB classes are taught by physical therapists. I can attest to the benefit of exercise. I recommend that anyone with PD look into exercise classes even those not specifically for Parkinson’s. I’m pretty sure that they can found if you look diligently.

    • Mary Ann says:

      I am glad to see that Physical Therapists are becoming involved in teaching RSB. I have a concern for those who are unable to maintain a rapidly -paced exercise program held by someone who does not seem to have an understanding of the physical effects of PD, or the co-morbidities that people may have that limit them even further.

  3. Chris Tay says:

    Exercise is the game changer! My neurologists say that the meds help quell symptoms, but don’t do anything to slow progression of the disease. I have atypical PD which means the meds don’t work on me anyway. I find that vigorous exercise makes me feel better and helps me “Feel the strength I still have” which is an emotional boost too.

    • Hi Chris – thank you for sharing your thoughts and your experience. You’re right – it’s an emotional boost to ‘feel’ the strength you still have and that’s only felt after you exercise. Keep pressing forward.

  4. Alan Tobey says:

    It’s certain that exercise is essential as part of our regimen for improving our lives with PD. But now that this general conclusion has become part of the conventional wisdom, isn’t it time we look more closely about what “the benefit” is? Clearly part of that is just physical conditioning — we need to be strong to fight a tough enemy and to enable daily functionality. But drawing that conclusion doesn’t necessarily mean that there is no limit to how much is helpful or that all exercises are equally useful.

    In my 11th year since diagnosis I’ve been re-engineering my battle plan, and reaching uncommon conclusions. Basically, I’ve decided that “the benefit” from exercise I should be focusing on is not so much raw strength as smooth flexible mobility. So I’ve put into my second tier all the muscle-building and extra endurance work in favor of three related disciplines: pilates, tai chi and dance. (Only the last of these is a “for PD patients” variant.) None requires special equipment, all three involve close mindful attention to precision motion in compatible ways, and all focus on the invoking and use of “chi energy,” creating a common shared core. For example, during and after the tai chi chih routine my hands physically buzz with palpable energy that persists, and that I’m now finding present in the other two. All together, the three contribute to a set of neuroplastic “circuits” that become habitual and are making me more capable. (And I’ve learned that too much muscle mass can be the enemy of flexibility and core strength.)

    I don’t claim that this is a universal technique, or that other combinations are inferior; but write only to suggest that we should all be consciously considering HOW specific exercises produce specific benefits, and not just be comforted by thinking “they’re all the same” in how they can help us. Optimizing is worth the effort.

  5. Chris Tay says:

    Hi Pearl, I’m wondering if you have been screened for DBS yet. Several of my fellow students have had it and say it was a milestone turning point in their life.

  6. susan ingram says:

    I’ve been boxng for 13 months. In the spring, I begin to experience some depression which influences my gym performance. Instead of noticing my positive actions, I see my negative progression. I am overwhelm by fear of PD. Due to eye surgery, been out of gym for 2 weeks. I don’t want to go back. My lack of exercise is very evident and motivation is so miminual. I sleep to avoid dealing with myself and I do not know how to regroup. However I do have a goal to go to gym Tuesday. We will see.

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