Engage PT, OT, SLP Therapy and Wellness
21 Reasons to Exercise in 2021
“When it comes to health and well-being, regular exercise is about as close to a magic potion as you can get.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
Exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, but for people living with PD, exercise can be magical medicine.
Here’s our list of the top 21 reasons to exercise in 2021:
1. Improve your mood.
Exercise increases brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier, more relaxed and less anxious. A review of studies shows that aerobic exercise is effective in improving symptoms of depression in people with PD.
2. Get better sleep.
Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster, get better sleep and deepen your sleep. Some research suggests high-intensity exercise training may improve sleep efficiency, total sleep time, time spent in slow-wave sleep and wake after sleep onset in people with PD.
3. Boost endurance.
Exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. A 2017 meta-analysis also found that endurance exercise improved UPDRS (United Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale) scores.
4. Go virtual.
There are more opportunities than ever to join online exercise classes that fit your schedule or to stream PD-specific exercise videos. Check out and subscribe to the Brain Body Better channel on YouTube for a great workout!
5. Learn something new.
Try Dance for PD or Tai Chi classes to challenge your mind and move your body at the same time.
6. Prevent chronic health problems.
Regular exercise helps prevent or manage many health problems and concerns, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease.
7. Control weight.
It is common for people with PD to lose weight, yet others may gain. Weight gain is sometimes a side effect of PD therapies. Being overweight raises risk of heart disease and high blood pressure and puts stress on your joints. Maintaining a healthy weight is key to living well with PD.
8. Stand taller.
Focused postural exercises have been shown to improve stooped posture in people with PD. Click here for 3 simple exercises to get you started.
9. Defy the aging process.
In a 2018 British study, a group of older people who exercised all of their lives, were compared to a group of similarly aged adults and younger adults who did not exercise regularly. Results showed that people who exercised regularly have defied the aging process — having the immunity, muscle mass, and cholesterol levels of a younger person.
10. Slow PD disease progression.
Findings that vigorous exercise has been shown to slow the progression of PD disease in patients may be explained by the role of exercise in reducing accumulation of the neuronal protein alpha-synuclein in brain cells. Clumps of alpha-synuclein are believed to play a central role in the brain cell death associated with PD. Other studies have shown that regular exercise helps brain cells use dopamine more efficiently. This occurs because areas of the brain responsible for receiving dopamine signals – the substantia nigra and basal ganglia, are affected by exercise. Exercise increases the number of D2 receptors in the brain, meaning dopamine has more places to go. Research has also demonstrated that in animal models, exercise increased the amount of a neurotrophic factor called GDNF, which helps protect dopamine neurons from damage.
11. Get more coordinated.
Check out PD-specific classes like Rock Steady Boxing to build fitness and hand eye coordination.
12. Keep things moving.
Constipation may be part of the PD disease process or medication side effects. Regular exercise is an important part of managing constipation. Moving the abdominal muscles through moderate exercise, like walking, can help get the digestive system moving.
13. Be more flexible.
Yoga practice has many health benefits. It can be an effective way to increase flexibility and combat rigidity associated with PD. A 2013 review found that practicing yoga helped improve flexibility and balance, and lower body strength in people with PD. New to yoga? Try out this chair yoga video with Liz.
14. Reduce fall risk.
Exercises that challenge balance and focus on reducing rigidity and improving postural stability are beneficial for reducing fall risk. Literature suggests that PD-specific exercise protocols focusing on large amplitude movements (LSVT BIG) can help improve motor function that assist in the decrease of falls in people with PD. Click here to learn more about the latest LSVT BIG research.
15. Find life balance.
Taking time for regular exercise can help relieve stress and add balance to your daily routine.
16. Walk confidently.
Adding Nordic poles to your outdoor walking routine has been shown to improve postural stability and stride length. Curious about how to use Nordic Poles in your exercise routine? Check out Liz’s blog post.
17. Improve memory.
A 2019 review of studies on the effect of exercise on non-motor symptoms in people with PD showed that any form of exercise had a positive effect on executive function, attention and memory compared to no exercise. No benefits were seen for speed of processing. Aerobic exercise, however, tended to best improve memory in people with PD.
18. Build a strong defense.
Long-term weight training (or progressive resistance exercises) significantly improves motor symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
19. Rule your day.
Regular exercise boosts energy and improves movement to help you tackle activities of daily living.
20. Enjoy life.
A Parkinson’s Outcome Project study showed people with PD who engaged in regular exercise for 2.5 per week had smaller decline in mobility and quality of life ratings over a 2 year period.
21. It’s never too late.
Any type physical exercise you can do safely and without risk of injury is beneficial. The Parkinson’s Outcome Project study mentioned above also showed that people with PD who start exercising earlier experience a slowed decline in quality of life compared to those who start later. Before beginning any new exercise, consult with your physician and, if available, a physical therapist that understands PD.