Walking can be a challenge when you have Parkinson’s disease. Learn how to fight freezing episodes, steady your stride and safely enjoy a stroll with these easy tips.
One of the telltale signs of Parkinson’s disease is a short scuffle-like walk. Difficulty walking can slow you down and keep you from doing the things you love. Freezing episodes and balance mishaps can turn a simple, taken-for-granted ability such as walking into a challenge.
Science says moderate exercise like brisk walking can improve your gait, balance and mobility and help you live better with Parkinson’s. For example, an American Academy of Neurology study found that people with Parkinson’s who walked at a moderate-but-continuous pace on a treadmill for 50 minutes a day, three days a week eventually noted swifter strides. Not only could they walk faster and longer, they also improved their overall fitness levels.
Not a fan of the treadmill? No worries. Walking the dog counts too, and so does a Saturday morning stroll at the park. Want to get the biggest health benefit? Combine a walking routine with simple stretching and resistance exercises. Be sure to keep these seven tips in mind when you head out for your walk:
Taking the Right Steps
- Start with a good foundation. Wear proper, supportive footwear. Never wear flip flops or other loose shoes when going for a walk.
- Know the terrain. Before going for a walk alone, bring a friend and try a practice walk on different terrains such as a sidewalk, grassy knoll or a muddy or rocky trail.
- Go for the assist. If you rely on a cane or walker for balance at home, bring it with you on your walk too.
- Walk like you mean it. When walking, strike your heel firmly on the ground with each step and take long steps. Walk with purpose and intent.
- Move those arms. The body’s normal arm swinging motion slows down in people with Parkinson’s. Tell your muscles to move it by swinging your arms emphatically as you walk.
- Stand up straight. Turns out your mother was right. Good posture is important and helps maintain your balance.
- Get your groove on. Consider using music headphones while you walk. Walking to the beat of music can help you keep rhythm and stay in step.
Moderate walking should make you feel like you’re getting a workout, but you shouldn’t be losing your breath. You should be able to carry on a conversation with a walking partner. Always stop immediately if you feel short of breath, dizzy or have any type of pain.
And remember, it’s common for people with Parkinson’s to become quite tired when walking. If you do, simply stop and rest for a moment. Remember, any exercise is good exercise. If you decided to take walk, you’ve already taken great steps toward better health.
If a freezing episode occurs during your stroll, try these four steps to get going again:
- Command your feet to march. Say “Left, Right, Left, Right.”
- Swing your arms wide and big.
- Shift your weight back and forth from foot to foot.
- Pretend there is a line on the ground that you need to step over.
Always wear comfortable clothing with pockets so you can carry your ID and a cell phone with the name and number for an emergency contact. Never hesitate to call if you need help.
Remember, walking is simple and easy medicine for Parkinson’s disease. Taking a few purposeful steps every day can help improve many common symptoms and help you live better with Parkinson’s.
Learn more about the benefits of walking for Parkinson’s disease and find fun exercise classes in your area by connecting with The Power Through Project. You can also share your experiences about your health journey with others who are living with Parkinson’s.
By Kelli Miller