Movement Ideas

There are many physical activities available to people with parkinsonian syndromes (PS) or essential tremor (ET). Many of them can be modified by changing the way the exercise is done, by doing it slowly, or by using props or other aids. The important thing is to find activities that appeal to you or your loved one, so that you'll want to do them regularly.

Talk to your doctor before starting any exercise routine.

Movement options

Some exercise options require planning; others can be done off the cuff. With some, you need to sign up for a class; others you can do alone or with friends. Below are just a few ideas, from simpler to more organized.

By yourself or with others

National Parkinsons Foundation's Moving Day One of the easiest ways to add more movement to your daily routine is to simply walk more. This could be a simple stroll around the block or a half-hour session on the treadmill. Swinging the arms as you walk is important for body coordination, but it can be difficult for you if you have a movement disorder. If you're feeling unsteady, arrange to walk with a friend. You may also want to get involved in the National Parkinson Foundation's Moving Day.

You don't have to go far from home. Find a park with a dirt trail: the challenge of walking on a natural surface instead of pavement can be a good test of balance. Many people like to use hiking poles or a walking stick to help prevent falls.

A stationary bike can build endurance. A mobile bicycle—or a tandem bike, ridden with a friend or trainer—can help to build better balance. Be sure to wear a helmet and follow your local bicycle safety laws.

Some of the most necessary moves in golf, including shifting weight from one foot to the other, swinging the club, and keeping your eye on the ball can improve concentration and focus. Whether or not you can tee off on a regular basis, the skills of golfing are beneficial—and may coordinate with other exercises you are doing.

It will undoubtedly be a challenge to get in and out of a kayak if you have a movement disorder. However, kayaking with a partner, just like riding a tandem bike, has been found to be useful and fun. The stronger paddler can help the weaker one. Kayaking can be done close to shore, and even in a restricted waterfront area on a lake. Life preservers, sunscreen, and hats should always be worn by all kayakers.


Dance is thought to be extremely beneficial for people with movement disorders. Some researchers believe that moving to a rhythm can help the brain learn new ways to move, which can help you or your loved one overcome the daily problems that symptoms of movement disorders can cause. Dance is particularly helpful in movement disorders because it concentrates on posture, balance, and rhythm. Of course, you can simply turn on the radio or your iPod and dance around the house. But programs like Dance for PD® classes can help get you started. They are available around the country and internationally.

The practice of yoga involves breathing and assuming postures that stretch and tone the body. There are many classes where traditional yoga practice is adapted by using chairs and props. There are also special twice-yearly wellness yoga retreats designed specifically for people with Parkinson's and their care partners.

Tai chi
The ancient Chinese practice of tai chi involves breathing and moving in set patterns or forms across the floor. Learning the forms tests your memory, and performing them can be adapted by using a chair. There is some new evidence that tai chi can improve balance and stability for people with PS.

This set of exercises conditions the body and stretches the spine. In addition to improving posture, Pilates can help with flexibility and balance. All floor work can be adapted to those with limited motion.

Spinning, or riding a stationary bike in a gym, can improve cardiovascular health in a safe environment.

Balance and fitness training
Improving balance is essential for preventing falls, and general fitness training can help keep your body in good shape. A physical therapist can help design a special program at your gym or in your home to work on arm and leg muscle strength, endurance, and flexibility.

Swimming and water aerobics
Exercising in a pool is ideal for people with movement disorders because it requires less balance. You can work on stretching and walking without pressure on the joints because the body is supported by the water. There are also flotation devices that can be used to practice kicking or chest expanding.

Next: Living With Symptoms

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