The Benefits of Exercising with Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a is a neurodegenerative disorder, which over time affects a person’s speech and movement. The disease typically affects individuals 60 years of age and older, and it’s commonly associated with severe shaking and difficulty walking and speaking.



Parkinson’s & Exercise

Anyone can benefit from exercise, regardless of age or state of health. Parkinson’s sufferers are no exception. Exercise gives those with Parkinson’s better control over their body. Big, repetitive movements are especially helpful, because they counteract the symptoms of Parkinson’s and slow the progression of the disease.

It’s important to enroll in an exercise program early in order to slow the disease as soon as possible.


Partners in Parkinson’s Program

The Partners in Parkinson’s program is a new initiative offered at Riverside Health Fitness Center that utilizes Parkinson’s Wellness Recovery (PWR), which was developed by the same woman who founded the LSVT Big program—the physical therapy program many Parkinson’s patients use after they’ve been diagnosed.

PWR is an exercise program that helps people with Parkinson’s develop strength and real-world skills to combat the symptoms of the disease.

Partners in Parkinson’s meets three times a week for one hour and works through the PWR program in a group class setting.

“In class, we do cognitive exercises along with the physical exercises, so we’re multitasking—working the brain and the body,” explains Dana Mercer, who leads the Partners in Parkinson’s program. “People with Parkinson’s also tend to lower their voices, so we ask that they speak loudly while doing the exercises. Our goal is to combat every part of the disease in one exercise.”

For those whose disease is more severe, Mercer offers one-on-one sessions, which use a more specialized version of the program. Regardless of where you are in your disease’s progression, the program can work for you.


Who Can Benefit from Partners in Parkinson’s?

Anyone with Parkinson’s disease can benefit from an exercise program like Partners in Parkinson’s, including those with tremors, small gaits, posture issues, or those who need help being brought up to speed mentally.

“We sometimes see individuals who were referred by their doctor or who heard about the program elsewhere,” says Mercer. “Oftentimes, it’s people who’ve been in physical therapy and are looking for a next step. It’s a great way to be consistent about your movement exercises after physical therapy.”

Though the class is only intended for Parkinson’s sufferers, friends and family can sit in and listen to the instruction, so they know how to help with an exercise at home.


What to Expect

Partners in Parkinson’s is a very hands-off program, teaching participants how to do activities themselves so they can become more independent.

“Generally speaking, if participants are struggling to get off the ground during an exercise, I try not to help them up,” states Mercer. “If they were to fall when home alone, they would need to get off the floor by themselves. We help them develop the skills and strength to do that on their own.”


The Four Power Moves

The Partners in Parkinson’s program covers four basic power moves, which are performed standing, in a chair, on all fours, on the stomach, and on the back. The power moves are done in all five positions, so no matter where the person is or how he’s fallen, he knows how to get up.

In addition to power stepping to improve gait and “power up” moves to improve posture, the program also covers a power rocking move. Parkinson’s patients sometimes experience freezing episodes where they get stuck in a position and can’t move. The rocking move helps them learn to transfer their weight from one side to the other to get moving again.

The power twist move works the trunk rotation, helping with rigidity and movements such as closing the door or reaching for a seatbelt.

Once participants learn the power moves, they practice them with weights to improve strength and are tasked with counting or participating in similar cognitive exercises while doing the moves in order to work on multitasking.

If you or a loved one suffers from Parkinson’s disease, stop by Riverside Health Fitness Center in Bourbonnais, IL, to speak with Dana Mercer about the Partners in Parkinson’s program or to attend a free session or visit the website at