Putting for Parkinson’s

Tired of the track or treadmill but know you need regular exercise to effectively manage your Parkinson’s symptoms? A relaxing game of golf may be just what the doctor ordered.

Golf requires frequent changes in activity and direction that help challenge your brain, balance and coordination. Doctors call this a “random practice” exercise. Regular exercise is a healthy must for everyone, but this type of workout is particularly helpful for people with Parkinson’s disease because it makes you stop and think about your position and movement before each swing.

Swinging a golf club keeps your torso flexible and involves reaching actions that help reduce rigidity and stiffness, a common PD symptom. The movements also help ward off “freezing,” the symptom in which one is literally stuck—or frozen—in position and unable to move. Nix the golf cart (if you can) and take some large strides across the course for an extra health boost.

A day on the putting green can also soothe stress, which can make you feel better overall. Stress and anxiety often make tremors and other Parkinson’s symptoms worse.

Drive to Thrive

Brian Grant strongly encourages people with Parkinson’s to tee up and take a swing. The power forward-turned-avid golfer learned he had young-onset PD at age 36, after retiring from the NBA. He finds golf a fun and relaxing way to keep his Parkinson’s symptoms in check. Each year, Brian plays in the BRIX Tavern’s Annual Golf Tournament, Gabe Pigotti Memorial Golf Tournament and others, with proceeds benefitting the Brian Grant Foundation.

Think about the Long Game

Sure, shaky hands or an unsteady stance might throw off that perfect putt from time to time. But every golfer gets occasional jitters (called the yips) that lead to a swing and a miss. So, don’t worry about always sinking that birdie or bogey or making par. Instead, remember the health benefits. Think about how you’re improving your range of motion and reducing stiffness with each swing.

If you’re an avid golfer and want to stabilize your stroke, consider a golf club designed for those with Parkinson’s and related neurodegenerative diseases. Such equipment is promoted to help reduce unwanted or uncontrollable motion.

Can’t make it to the green? Try golfing at home with an exercise-based video game. Research shows video golfing (with a Wii, PlayStation, or Kinect, for example) is a reasonable and safe option for people with PD.

Live better with Parkinson’s. Learn more about the benefits of exercise for Parkinson’s disease and find fun classes in your area by connecting with the Power Through Project. You can also share your journey with others who are living with Parkinson’s.

By Kelli Miller