Being an informed “exerciser” with Parkinson’s

… To follow up from Tuesday’s post, here are a few things to incorporate and/or consider when you are exercising…

1. Cues/Attentional Training

Attentional training provides a non-automatic drive for movement scale and timing; what this means is, attentional training and cues MAY compensate for faulty brain circuitry and improve performance.

The ability to move in PD is not lost; rather mechanisms that initiate movement are defective (i.e. corticol control). This can be applied to yoga, where physical performance in persons with PD may benefit from specific external cues emphasized in yoga because they utilize intact premotor cortex, rather than basal ganglia circuitry (Morris, 2000).

Yoga also breaks up complex sequences and/or postures into component parts. Focused attention on individual aspects of postures may improve performance by providing a non-automatic drive for movement scaling, and serves to bypassing basal ganglia circuitry.

… What can you do?

  1. Utilize visual cues to help coordinate movement (i.e. laser pointer)
  2. Utilize auditory cues (i.e. music, sound of walking stick hitting pavement) to help you “keep the beat”
  3. Focus on one aspect of movement at a time, like in yoga, to maintain your attention on the present moment
  4. Do rhythmic activities, i.e cycling, to keep the pace

2. Follow “brain training” principles

  1. Your body needs to be ready, your brain needs to be focused and the task needs to feel important (or fun!) for change to occur. Make your exercise engaging!
  2. Use equipment to get the experience of the full movement safely, then take supports away as you progress
  3. Seek exercises that gain core stability
  4. Starting your exercise program with progressive aerobic training, then follow up with skill acquisition-type exercises.
  5. Increase useable muscle and focus on functional movements in your exercises… not just “curls for the girls” but apply that experience to everyday movements! (adapted from PWR! by Becky Farley)


3. Address Rigidity

Otherwise known as that “cogwheel stiffness”… the inability to get out of a chair

 … What can you do?

  1. Don’t hold postures as long… the can cause tremor or rigidity… try and move in and out of postures with your breath
  2. Address rigidity and bradykinesia in torso muscles and spine by focusing on deep diaphragmatic breaths

4. Focus on Posture

Stooped posture in PD is attributed to shortened contractile elements of spinal flexors and lengthening/weakening of extensors… the we shift our head forward and tilt our chin up to compensate, creating pressure in the neck too!

… What can you do?

  1. Strengthen your core *especially your transverse abdominal muscles
  2. Stretch your psoas muscle… the thick muscle (size of your forearm!) that runs from under your armpits to your hits
  3. Practice gentle backbends
  4. Building your posture (more info HERE!) from the ground up, engaging your feet, legs, core, open chest and align head over shoulders
  5. Check out your posture EVERY TIME YOU WALK BY A MIRROR… it’s not vanity, it’s anatomical alignment!

… So, how do those resonate with you and your exercise experiences?

I’m happy to be home, for now… no more travel… until next week when I head to Kelowna for some yoga and Time Out for Caregiver workshops… see you there! Much love

p.s. I saw this ad in the Chicago airport on my way to Kripalu… seemed appropriate 😉