Living with Parkinson’s disease can be difficult, but regular exercise can help to improve symptoms and quality of life. While indoor exercise is important, recent research has shown that outdoor exercise is also greatly beneficial for those with Parkinson’s.
Walking in nature can improve balance and coordination, and spending time in the great outdoors can reduce fatigue and depression. In addition, simply getting outside can help boost energy levels and increase motivation.
So if you’re looking for a way to get moving, consider heading outside for your next workout. Just make sure to dress for the weather and start slow!
Why Is Exercise Important for People With Parkinson’s?
Staying active becomes particularly important for those living with PD because the disease inhibits people’s activities. Therefore, people with Parkinson’s disease need to maintain an active lifestyle to slow the disease and control associated symptoms. Such symptoms include:
- Bradykinesia: This neurological disorder causes muscles to move slowly and is one of the cardinal symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
- Balance Problems: People who have trouble balancing and maintaining proper gait could develop Parkinson’s disease.
- Rigidity: This early Parkinson’s symptom involves people who get rigid or stiff limbs and joints — which might be mistaken for arthritis.
- Tremors: Parkinson’s disease causes episodes of involuntary muscle shaking or slight body movements.
- Impaired Mouth Functions: People living with Parkinson’s disease can develop trouble speaking or swallowing.
Regular exercise has been shown to improve motor function, which is essential considering how these symptoms mostly involve impaired physical activity. If you or a loved one are showing any signs described above, consider incorporating exercise into your daily routine to help delay the need for Parkinson’s medication.
Great Outdoor Exercises for People With Parkinson’s
Those living with PD should take part in both indoor and outdoor exercises. This two-prong strategy helps you change things up and experience different environments to keep you motivated and inspired.
Here are some excellent activities to consider performing outside:
Walking is a great low-impact activity with many health benefits. For people with PD, walking can help improve their gait and posture. It’s also a great way to increase heart rate while reducing stiffness. Be sure to start with small distances and gradually work your way up. Also, try walking around your neighborhood for 20 to 30 minutes a day.
While you’re out, take the opportunity to take in the sights and sounds around you. Remind yourself of the wonderful experiences that can sit just outside your door.
Hiking can help improve balance and coordination while also reducing stress levels. Being in nature can also do wonders for your mood.
Frances Sparky, former leader of the Sierra Heights and Inspiring Connections Outdoors programs, says that hiking on flat terrains and at a manageable pace helps her “feel really wonderful.” In addition, she says that “it’s important to stay active and stay stretched.”
Plus, hiking is a great way to encounter the beauty of wildlife, flowers, trees, bodies of water, and so much more. So take it all in and enjoy the bounties of nature.
For many people with Parkinson’s disease, dancing provides an enjoyable way to stay active and improve overall health. When you dance, your body is continuously moving, which helps to increase your flexibility and range of motion. In addition, dancing can help to improve your balance and coordination.
Dancing outdoors gives you the extra benefit of soaking in the sun and getting in a little extra sweat. So prop open your laptop outside and groove with Jann Karam at PCLA’s weekly interactive fitness class combining agility and balance, strength training, and dance. You can also check out our Spanish dance class, “Bailando Unidos contra el Parkinson,” welcoming all skill levels.
Bike riding is another excellent outdoor exercise for people with Parkinson’s. It helps build muscle strength while improving coordination, balance, and flexibility.
Biking is also a great cardio workout that can help reduce the risk of heart disease and avoid stiffness of the leg joints. Do so slowly and steadily around your neighborhood or local park.
Yoga involves stretching exercises and poses that help improve flexibility and muscle strength. It can also help with balance, coordination, and posture.
Practicing yoga may also help improve sleep quality and reduce stress levels. In addition, some yoga classes take place in parks, which enhances your workout with a healthy dose of fresh air.
Tai chi is a form of martial arts that involves slow, controlled movements and deep breathing. Originating from Ancient China, this exercise has been shown to improve balance, flexibility, and strength. Tai chi can also help with coordination and reduce fall risk. Check out the Tai Chi Foundation website: it’s a great starting point for pursuing a Tai Chi practice with a variety of online and local in-person class options.
A 2021 study found that golf was as “safe and tolerable” as tai chi for PD patients. Plus, golf can be a great way to stay active and social in the open air. The repetitive motions of swinging a club can help ease symptoms like stiffness, and being outdoors can improve mood and energy levels.
Plus, golf is a low-impact activity that is easy on the joints. And because it can be played at any pace, it is an excellent form of exercise for people of all fitness levels. Best of all, golf is a social game that can be enjoyed with family and friends. So if you are looking for a fun and challenging way to stay active outside, grab your clubs and hit the links.
How Intense Should You Exercise Outdoors?
It’s important to note that people with PD should not push themselves too hard when exercising outdoors. Instead, start slow and gradually increase your workouts’ intensity as fitness levels improve. It’s also important to listen to your body and take breaks as needed.
Furthermore, be aware of your surroundings to make sure that you can exercise safely and clear of moving vehicles, people, or anything that can collide with you while you focus on your routine.
Always Consult with Your Doctor
Anyone considering the exercises we highlighted above must consult with their primary care provider before anything else. Getting professional input can help people living with PD determine how intense their exercises can be and refer them to an appropriate physical therapist to customize a specific regimen.
Certain health conditions could complicate things and make some of these exercises inappropriate. That being said, always err on the side of caution — if an exercise feels wrong, stop immediately.
Get Going in the Right Direction
Exercise is essential for those living with Parkinson’s disease as it can help slow the condition’s progression. While you can easily perform many Parkinson’s exercises indoors, outdoor exercises can provide the additional benefit of being immersed in nature and getting some much-needed fresh air. It’s great for the mind, body, and spirit. If you need help exploring your options with exercise, reach out to us — we’d love to help you kickstart your outdoor exercise regimen and thrive.