While most people know that it is important to exercise for their health, many have a difficult time staying on track and making exercise a part of their daily routine. It can help to start slowly and do a little more every day to begin to make exercise a daily habit. Use the buddy system, and find a partner to exercise with you. Do what you like to do, and vary your exercise, if possible, to prevent boredom. Tennis, dance, tai chi and yoga are examples of exercises that can help improve balance, posture, strength, flexibility, engage the mind, and can be done with partners or in groups.
Whether it is due to time constraints or simply because you become bored with your Parkinson’s exercise program, the following strategies can help you stay with a program and become a lifelong exerciser.
Before you begin an exercise program, it is helpful to plan how you will overcome day-to-day challenges that may prevent you from sticking to your routine. Here is a list of some common barriers:
- I have a busy schedule and am not able to fit exercise into my life.
- I have fatigue so I am too tired for exercise.
- I am not confident in my ability to exercise successfully.
- I don’t enjoy exercise and therefore find it difficult to motivate myself to participate in a long-term program.
- I don’t really know where to begin or which exercises are best for me.
Once you’ve identified the barriers that may limit your success with exercise, use the following strategies to help you get started and stay on track:
- Schedule it. Just as you would schedule a meeting at work or a visit with a friend, you can schedule exercise. If you put it in your calendar, you are more likely to do it. Schedule a specific time during the day when you feel your best and have more energy.
- Get Guidance. If you have difficulty with fatigue or experience sleepiness during the day, speak with your doctor about possible ways to address these issues. Overt time, exercise may increase your energy level and reduce feelings of fatigue.
- Be Informed. If you aren’t sure what you should be doing for exercise or if you have questions about what exercises are best for you, visit with a physical therapist who can help you get started. Once you’ve done that, you also can work with a personal trainer or other fitness professional who can help find new ways to make your workout challenging and fun!
- Make it Fun. Find activities that you enjoy. There are many different types of exercise and ways to make it more fun. Add music or bring a friend to make your time exercising more pleasurable. Many people also find that participating in a group exercise program adds to both their enjoyment and commitment to exercise.
- Stay Accountable. Tell friends, family, coworkers and others that you are going to start an exercise program. When they ask you about it, you can proudly report that you have been reaching your goal to make exercise a part of your life. You can also stay accountable to yourself by keeping an exercise log. Find one online by using the term “exercise log” in your favorite search engine.
- Be Focused. For various reasons, you might stop exercising for a short time period. The goal is to get back on track as soon as possible. It is important to keep in mind the reasons for your commitment to exercise and to focus on all of the benefits you experience. There will be bumps in the road to becoming a lifetime exerciser, but as long as you keep going, you can continue to make a difference in your health and well-being.
Before beginning any exercise program, you should consult with your doctor to ensure that you are healthy enough to participate in exercise. It is also helpful to see a physical therapist so that you can start off on the right foot and make sure you are choosing the types of exercise that will benefit you most. We all know how difficult it can be to find the time (and sometimes, motivation) to exercise, so it is important to get guidance on making the most of your time while exercising at the gym or at home. By finding the most appropriate exercise at the optimal intensity, you can exercise smartly, safely and effectively.
Several national organizations have published exercise guidelines for the general population (some consider factors, such as age and health status). These national organizations include the World Health Organization (WHO), the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). While the specifics of these guidelines differ in some areas, there is general consensus on the recommended amount and type of exercise to include in the optimal program. Based on these guidelines and some considerations specific to those living with Parkinson’s, we have outlined the following exercise program recommendations, based on the four main types of exercise recommended for people living with Parkinson disease: Cardiorespiratory, Strength, Flexibility and Balance.
Use exercise to take control of your Parkinson’s. Exercise is one thing you can control and in the process, enjoy a better quality of life.