Motivation is a two-way street for people with Parkinson’s and their care partners. Help each other live happily and healthily ever after by seeking opportunities to exercise together.

We already know that exercise is an important tool to help with the cognitive decline that people with Parkinson’s experience as the disease progresses. But it’s also important to remember that those with Parkinson’s disease aren’t the only people whose brains benefit from a consistent fitness routine. Research has found that everyone’s cognition starts to decline after the age of 40. That’s why engaging in an exercise program isn’t just good for people with Parkinson’s – it’s good for their spouse, partner, children and basically anyone else serving the role of care partner. Exercise doesn’t just keep the body healthy – it keeps the brain healthy. When you work out, you’re constantly challenging your brain to communicate with other body parts to complete various physical tasks, whether it’s navigating around obstacles while jogging or throwing and catching a ball. Completing physical activities that challenge cognition is very important for people with Parkinson’s because it helps sharpen their mental acuity and prolong their independence. Staying active helps us stay self-sufficient, which is something everyone wants to hold onto for as long as possible. That’s why it’s so important for care partners to keep motivating their loved one with Parkinson’s to exercise. There is strength in numbers What’s the easiest way to motivate someone to exercise? It’s simple. You exercise with them. Think of the care partner as a personal trainer whose job is to help their client find a physical activity they enjoy doing – whether it’s walking, dancing, playing racquet sports or bowling – and then join them in that activity. Exercise is more fun when you have a buddy working out beside you – and it’s even more effective when you think of that buddy as a competitor. Don’t believe us? Just ask science! Researchers at Kansas State University found that people who exercised with someone they thought was better than them increased their workout time and intensity by 200%. We have the Köhler Effect to thank for this, which is the idea that a person works harder as a member of a group than when working alone. In fitness terms, this means we’re likely to push ourselves harder when working out with people we perceive to be in better physical shape. Let’s say you’re gearing the family up for some friendly competition. When you announce, “Last one to finish carrying in the groceries is a rotten egg!” everyone is going to try their hardest not to be that rotten egg. Had you simply asked, “Will you please carry in the groceries?” they still would have carried in the groceries, but they wouldn’t have been motivated to do it as quickly and effectively had you not challenged them to a competition. That’s the Köhler Effect kicking in. The point is, when we work out together, we motivate ourselves to meet our fitness goals, while also motivating our loved one to meet theirs.