Four steps to motivation
Exercise is an important part of your health and wellness with Parkinson’s disease. It promotes physical endurance, heals with flexibility, posture and balance. Exercise increases your energy level, self confidence, mood and even cognitive functioning. Exercise may play a more specific role in the health and wellbeing for people with PD. Recent studies suggest that exercise may reduce the risk of developing PD and further studies are investigating the possibility that exercise in itself is neuroprotective. This is an exciting idea that exercise may serve to “put the brakes” on changes that occur over time.
Getting started with an exercise program is the first step. If you are just getting started, a physical therapist can help tailor your exercise to target the areas affected most by PD. For some, exercise may have immediate benefits, for others it can help delay or reduce problems such as posture and balance. The bigger challenge is not beginning but continuing with exercise on your own.
Group exercise programs are particularly helpful for PD. Many programs are available and it best to find the one that fits you.
Examples include Yoga, Tai Chi
, the Alexander technique
Each of these techniques uses both the mind and the body to enhance movement.
Therapeutic Yoga is a form of yoga that is adapted to meet the needs of people with pain, physical or medical illness
Dr. Shaw, PsyD a neuropsychologist that specializes in PD appreciates that starting and maintaining an exercise program is challenging for everyone. It all boils down to motivation. The first step is committing to a time, and stick with the schedule. Choose the time of the day when you typically feel most energetic, and a time that is not likely to conflict with meals or other social activities. Although it is more convenient to exercise in your home, you are much more likely to procrastinate and be distracted by other activities. Next, find a group with whom you can exercise. The social reward, commitment to others, and group energy will help ensure continuing motivation. Additionally, people are more motivated if they perform varied exercises and those exercises that improve important or favorite activities. For example, if walking is important to you, ensure that some of your exercise involves walking longer distances. Riding a stationary bike may be rather boring if you have not intention of bike riding. Even some of the newer video games offer the benefit of increased balance, agility, and endurance by mimicking the action of a sport. Finally, even if you do not have the energy to exercise on a particular day, make the commitment to go to the gym or usual exercise location for the time you would normally exercise. Make a rule that you will not turn on the TV or computer until after you exercise for the day. It is amazing how often the energy kicks in once you get started, and how much better you will feel the rest of the day.
Sierra Farris, PAC a physician assistant uses her experience as an exercise trainer and an expert in Parkinson’s care to encourage and motivate people to exercise. I find that individuals will exercise if they enjoy the activity and keeping it simple goes a long way.
As a trainer we follow these steps in getting you on your way to exercise.
First examine the value you place on exercise and education about the benefits of exercising when you have PD. It is not easy to exercise a body that is stiff or slow, but recognizing why exercise is of value is very important. However, if you don’t find value in exercising or understand why exercise could help, you probably wont’ stick with a program.
Evaluate your current abilities and then set a goal, a reasonable goal. Goals must match your abilities and must be obtainable. If the goal is too high, you may become frustrated and hang it up too early. If the goal is too low, you will see little benefit and feel you are wasting your time. Physical therapists that specialize in PD can assess your level of fitness and be encouraging because they will know that you CAN get better.
Monitor your progress and take an active role in monitoring your exercise compliance. For some, it is very rewarding to jot down on the calendar that you walked a mile today. This is really a way to take control of your body instead of letting your body control you. And, remember to celebrate the victories of success, see step four.
Do not overdue it. You want to advance your exercise program as you become more fit. What you don’t want is to wake up and not be able to sit on the toilet from sore legs or even worse, not be able to get out of bed at all. The old adage, no pain no gain is out, eating a small bowl of ice-cream because you achieved a new level is in.
On a personal note, I too have trouble staying motivated to get back on the trail. Anyone that exercises can find an excuse to do something else ‘more important’ or the most common excuse, ‘I don’t have time’. If you don’t feel exercise is valuable to your well-being, you just won’t do it. However, having a companion to exercise with can make all the difference. “If you don’t do it for yourself, at least take your friend out for a walk…for their health of course”.
Sierra Farris, PA-C