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 😉


Parkinson’s Apps

Last week I introduced the idea of using a smartphone to detect Parkinson’s (biomarkers, see link HERE), inspired by Max Little’s Parkinson’s voice initiative. This week I want to share some of the apps available to people with Parkinson’s disease…

Medication Tracker: You’ve got the best pill tracker available sitting right in your pocket. Download these two apps for iPhone and Android to manage your daily regime, set reminders and record dosage taken. For Android systems, we fielded this recommendation from Twitter follower, @yopd.

Puzzles: UnBlock Me (AndroidiPhone) and Hidden Object (Android) came recommended to us from our Twitter community. “As a recent PD, I use all the puzzle games I can. Hidden Object is a timed hidden object game [that I use],” shared Twitter follower Rod. UnBlock Me is a similar puzzle game where you try to move a red block out of the center of the board.

Twitter: I use this application EVERY DAY to build community, share resources, and learn what’s new in the Parkinson’s community. It can also help Parkinson’s symptoms. keeping your fingers (and brain!) moving! Follow organizations like @ParkinsonsBC@MichaelJFoxOrg, National Parkinson Foundation or ME (@kaitlyn_roland) to stay up-to-date on research news and advice, as well as engage with the Parkinson’s community.AndroidiPhone

Charity Miles: Raising money for Parkinson’s research is as easy as a walk around the block with this app. For every mile you walk, run or bike with the Charity Miles app, the charity of your choice earns money and awareness. Don’t just take our word for it, Team Fox member and Twitter user @RyansHope raved about the app. “[Charity Miles] keeps me moving which helps manage my symptoms,” he said. AndroidiPhone

Parkinson’s Toolkit (National Parkinson Foundation, Inc.): This free app helps you navigate physician visits and covers key issues you should discuss with your physician, like symptoms, planning, diagnosis, treatment options and billing information (iPhone).

PD Home Exercises: is a video app that have more than 50 exercises you can follow along to at home covering all range of movement and mobility… it also includes a metronome and vibration for cueing training! (iPhone)

Memory, notes, lists and organization: Evernote is amazing for capturing details of your day, organize items from your shopping lists to your travel itinerary. The best part? You can access your notes from any device – mobile phone, tablet or PC because the information is stored in your personal cloud. I use this all the time to store ideas, note for later, and to-do lists!

What are some of your favourite apps – that either help you organize your life, or add some fun to your day?? Please share in the comments below! Happy app-ing! much love.