Exercise for Balance
Keeping your balance strong is an important goal for people with Parkinson’s (more broadly, it is important for everyone as balance can change as we age). According to Colleen Canning in an article published in the British Medical Journal in 2009:
- 68% people with Parkinson’s will fall
- 65% of fallers will experience an injury secondary to their falls,
- 33% will suffer a fracture
- 75% of falls will lead to use of a health care service
I am often asked what should I do for my balance or what exercise should I do?
The first step is to do something- everyday, beginning NOW. When choosing an exercise for Parkinson’s disease, balance control and health it certainly is not one size fits all. Results from research using many different types of exercise programs support this idea. A successful exercise program is one that
- You enjoy. What gives you pleasure or makes you laugh
- Challenges you. Doing the same thing over and over again only makes you strong in that area.
- Is doable. Is the exercise so complicated you can’t do it? Does it require a long trip to the gym everyday making it less likely you’ll do it?
- Associate with what you love. Music, pets, nature, people, singing, the list is endless….
- Reduces Stress. Listen to your body and your mind. How do you feel afterward?
- Engages you mind and your body. Through better focus
- Mimics what you wish to improve. (i.e. Nothing is better for walking then walking.)
Can be modified to meet your needs.
- Is safe. This is especially true if you have balance problems or are new to exercise. Do you have the level of balance, strength or stamina for the exercise in mind? A fall or strained muscle is what you are trying to avoid not experience while you exercise.
Begin by working with a physical therapist or personal trainer to be sure your program meets your needs. Below are just some examples of exercise programs that can help your balance.
- Yoga, Qi Gong and Tai chi. Research supports the use of these ancient methods for wellbeing and improved mobility in PD. These programs help with balance, posture, flexibility and coordination as well as mood, pain, fatigue.
- Dance. A research study showed that Tango improves balance. A big bonus is the fun, creativity and social benefits.
- Walking. Nothing helps walking more than simply walking. Walking sticks can help with balance. (Be sure to use adjustable ones with straps. Your arm should be bent at a 90 degree angle when holding the stick.) A walk in nature on an uneven surface is more challenging but walking on a track or in the mall may be safer and easier for some.
- Aquatic therapy. If you have significant balance problems, the buoyancy of water helps keep you safe while exercising.
- Wii Fit and other video games. Fun balance games that can be dones at home, in a group or you can even join a competative team.
- Balance specific exercise training. Check with your local hospital, medical, community or senior center to find a program near you.
[See exercise tips
for more articles on exercise, getting started and staying motivated.]
Author: Monique Giroux, MD