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How does exercise make people with Parkinson’s feel better?

Dear Patrick,

I was diagnosed with PD two years ago. Lately, I’ve been feeling depressed. Any suggestions? Can exercise help?

April B., 58, Los Angeles

Hi April,

I recently wrote an article on the topic of whether or not exercise can help symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease. The article, which confirmed that it can, received far more readership than normal. This is obviously a subject which resonates with the community.

I reread the article myself yesterday, and I realized that while I answered the question of can exercise help with Parkinson’s disease. I did not discuss how exercise helps those with Parkinson’s live happier and healthier lives.

My focus in this article is to not necessarily discuss the medical benefits, but rather shine a light on the ‘feel better’ aspects of exercise.

The question, “how does exercise help” is as important as “can exercise help?.” In this article I discuss some of the specific ways in which exercise, properly performed, can make you feel better..

Impact on depression

One of the most common symptoms associated with Parkinson’s is depression. A recent study by a movement disorder neurologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center found that long term exercise improved depression among patients with Parkinson’s. “Our findings demonstrate that long-term group exercise programs are feasible in the Parkinson’s disease population.

Patients enjoyed exercising, and they stayed with the program that included cardiovascular and resistance training,” said principal investigator Dr. Ariane Park, a movement disorder neurologist at the Madden Center for Parkinson’s Disease and Related Disorders at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center.

The study concluded:

“We recommend exercise to all of our Parkinson’s patients, Park said. “We just want patients to move on a regular basis. Not only will they move better, but they will feel better.”

That’s good news of course, but what is the best kind of exercise to achieve the depression-lifting benefits? Here are some recommendations:

Patrick’s Exercise Recommendations:

To achieve maximum benefit, it is important that the instructors of all of the below are intimately familiar with Parkinson’s Disease.

Strength Training

Probably the single most useful way to quickly improve your overall body strength is through a coordinated strength training program. Find a trainer who understands Parkinson’s and work with him/her at least twice a week to supplement your exercise program. Strength training can also be the foundation of your program as it has so many benefits.


Boxing is a great release and modality of exercise for PD because it involves balance, coordinated movement and both anaerobic and cardiovascular exercise. Make sure you have a good instructor who shows you how to punch because it is a sport which involves explosive impact which travel from the fist on the bag, through the wrist and elbow to the shoulder and spine.

There are Parkinson’s specific boxing classes that started in New York City that are now available in Los Angeles at Rock Steady Boxing. Here is a link to their webpage: rocksteadyboxing.org


One of the common symptoms of Parkinson’s is stiffness, poor range of motion and postural instability. Yoga is great at addressing this, is easy to perform, and low impact.

Power Walking

The reciprocal movement of power walking is wonderful for posture, alertness and balance, plus you can do this in your own neighborhood.


There have been many study performed that validate the usefulness of the bike. There is a benefit to the rotary motion of the sprocket and peddles that has a calming effect on the symptoms. Many of the bikes now have programs so you can experiment with cross country, interval, fat burning, hill climb, settings etc.

But be cautious, some of these are tough! Recumbent bikes (bikes where you have a seat similar to a chair) are great because they offer low back support and allow your hands to be free if you’d like to add some light weight work for the upper body while you ride.

Aquatic Exercise

This is another rejuvenating and low impact option for Parkinson’s. There are classes available at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena for PWP. Contact Lori Birmingham at 626-564-0330 or email: lbirmingham@rosebowlaquatics.org.

Or visit their webpage here: rosebowlaquatics.com


Again, this is a wonderful way to get the body moving through flowing, controlled, coordinated movement. It is also low impact and fun because you are usually working with a partner and moving to good music. the Invertigo Dance Company in Culver City has dance classes for PD. Visit: invertigodance.org for more information.

SmartXPD Parkinson’s & Senior Exercise Class
Strength, Mobility, Agility, Reaction Technique, eXercise: this fun and interactive exercise class for Parkinson’s and seniors will get you up and moving, challenging your body and brain. The class provides effective and evidence based exercises specifically designed to improve your health and function.
Time: 10:30-11:30 Wednesdays and Fridays
Location: West Side Jewish Community Center: 5870 West Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles CA 90036
Instructor: Patrick LoSasso, CSCS, Personal Trainer
Contact: Patrick LoSasso (323) 422-9794
Email: patrick@SmartXPD.com
Parkinson’s Exercise Classes

The Westside YMCA has a PD exercise class called PLUSS. Address: 11311 La Grange Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90025 (310) 477-1511 or find them online: http://www.ymcala.org/

Also Re+active Physical Therapy also has a 12 week PD class starting. Find more info at their website: http://www.re-activept.com/

Patrick’s Approach

In addition, here are links to some of my videos for exercises that you can perform at home and will help with your PD symptoms.

3 Minute Parkinson’s Exercise & Stretch

Parkinson’s and Senior Reciprocal Movement Drill #3 for Gait
Chair Stretch for People with Parkinson’s Disease & Seniors
Enjoy and keep moving my friends. I’ll see you at the gym!


USE AT YOUR OWN RISK: Patrick LoSasso’s videos are for informational purposes only. Consult a physician before performing this or any exercise program. After consulting with your physician, it is your responsibility to evaluate your own medical and physical condition, and to independently determine whether to perform, use or adapt any of the information contained here. Any exercise program has an inherent risk of injury. By voluntarily undertaking any exercise displayed herein, you assume the risk of any resulting injury


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