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Living Well With Parkinson's: Exercise Is Key

Nicole Sauve, PTA, CBIS | Jan 26, 2023

Exercise plays a major role in Parkinson’s as a way to help maintain a person’s balance, mobility, and ability to perform daily activities. In fact, exercise has been linked to a better sense of well-being across the different stages and severity of Parkinson's and can play a significant role in managing symptoms and slowing down the progression of the disease.

What Is Parkinson's Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that slowly develops and affects our ability to regulate our body’s movements. With Parkinson’s disease, our body stops producing a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which allows us to have smooth and controlled bodily movements.

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disease that currently has no cure; however, doctors have been able to focus treatments to help alleviate some of the motor symptoms (physical symptoms). One of the best ways to manage Parkinson's symptoms is through medication, and another is through exercise.

Exercise and Parkinson's 101

Current research has shown that exercise can improve a person with Parkinson’s gait, balance, tremor, flexibility, grip strength, and overall motor coordination. Again, while there is no cure for Parkinson’s, exercise can help slow down some of the progression associated with the disease. By exercising, doctors agree that improved mobility from exercise can help decrease the risk of falls and other complications from Parkinson’s.

Research also has shown that by exercising, our brains will not increase the amount of dopamine but will be more efficient at using the already present dopamine, which in turn will alleviate some of the motor symptoms in Parkinson’s.Close up of senior woman in yoga class

How Types of Exercise Therapy Help Parkinson's

Engaging in therapy focused on exercise and lifestyle changes can counteract symptoms of Parkinson’s. Therapy can also increase overall survival rates, improve cognition, and reduce the severity of motor and non-motor symptoms. A skilled therapist trained in special Parkinson’s programs, such as LSVT Big or PWR!Moves, can provide tools to help manage symptoms successfully.

Let's explore these common programs a bit more.

  • Senior man holds blue exercise ball in front of him with fitness instructor in backgroundLSVT Big: This therapy protocol, supported by 25 years of research, improves the mobility, flexibility, and overall quality of life of those impacted by Parkinson’s. Certified skilled physical therapists and occupational therapists lead the program, focusing on education about recognizing when and how to make small movements larger. This leads to increased motion and mobility, affecting daily life, improving comfort, and increasing confidence with everyday movements.
  • PWR!Moves: This program provides Parkinson’s-specific exercises and training for restoring and maintaining movements that deteriorate with the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Developed by the creator of the LSVT Big program, this method includes performing large amplitude and high-effort exercises. These exercises target areas interfering with successful mobility: PWR! Up, Rock, Twist, and Step. For someone with Parkinson’s, these exercises help increase mobility and coordination while decreasing rigidity.

Programs vary in length and involvement, but the knowledge gained through exercise therapy can be used throughout life to improve and maintain mobility and movement.

Parkinson's Therapy at Walker Methodist

At Walker Methodist, we strive to provide the best care for our residents and community members impacted by a Parkinson's diagnosis. Partnering with Struthers Parkinson's Center, we equip therapy and rehabilitation staff with up-to-date education and training. And our clinicians specialized in the LSVT and PWR!Moves programs are experts in treating Parkinson's symptoms with specialized personal care.

Parkinson's Fitness Classes Open to the Public

Each week at Westwood Ridge in West St. Paul, we host a free exercise class for all individuals dealing with Parkinson’s. Each session focuses on movements crucial for staying mobile with the disease, including exercises to alleviate pain or stiffness that goes hand-in-hand with degenerating motor symptoms.

This class is held every Wednesday afternoon from 2 – 2:45 PM at:

Westwood Ridge

1 Thompson Avenue West

West Saint Paul, MN 55118


What to know about our public Parkinson's class:

  • It is appropriate for all stages and severities of the disease.
  • It offers a variety of seated and standing exercises. Standing exercises use the support of a chair.
  • It is led by a certified exercise professional
  • The class is FREE!!
  • The class is continuous, so participants can join in at any time.

If you are interested in the Parkinson’s exercise class or would like more information, call 651-259-2479 or stop by one of the classes to learn more.


Learn More About Parkinson's Care at Walker Methodist


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