My husband has been diagnosed with
Parkinson’s Disease. What are some
natural exercise and diet remedies
that would help?
From my extensive review of the
research literature on Parkinson’s
you have asked the right question.
Diet and exercise have a compelling
influence on how your husband
feels every day.
Eat healthy food. Exercise. He will
Eat junk food. Be a couch potato.
He will feel lousy.
It is as simple as that. This is not
The research on exercise and Parkinson’s
is unequivocal. Exercise helps people
feel better and get relief from their
I make it a point to add exercise
books and videos on the resources
resources page of Parkinsons Recovery.
If anyone knows of exercise books or
videos that have been useful to you,
please reply so that I can add them to
the list of resources.
I have a very simple, perhaps
mundane suggestion. Move any
way it feels good to him. Move
as often as he can.
Some people love to exercise. Other
people hate to exercise. I talked
with one woman last week who loves
to exercise – so much so that her physical
therapist has limited her exercise routine
to 90 minutes. She gets significant relief
from her symptoms.
Other people have never exercised
in their life and are proud of it. Making
a practice of moving every day is an
annoyance. Too bad for them.
I believe the trick is for your husband
to find a way of moving his body that
is motivated from a place deep inside
himself. When he discovers a way of
exercising every day that works for
him his body will let him know:
“Yes. This is what I need. Do it
today. Do it every day.”
What exercise is the right exercise
for your husband? Ask him to remember
what he loved doing when he was a child.
Did he enjoy swimming when he was little?
Then swim now. Did he love to play
marbles? Then play marbles now.
Did he love to play hide and seek?
Then play hide and seek with your
dog Fido now. (My apologies if your
dog is not named Fido). You get the
I have always been a runner, so I run
frequently. I get high when I run.
Running always makes me feel better.
It is the natural remedy that works
Some people with Parkinson’s tell me
running on a treadmill is their exercise
of choice. Running itself is clearly not
the best form of exercise for many
If any one of us (you or your husband or
myself) is told that we must exercise in
a specific way using a specific routine
for 60 minutes a day, we will not do it
for very long if we do not like doing it.
I will stick to a routine I do not like
for a week – maybe. Perhaps you
are good for a month. Maybe your
husband is more disciplined and will
last four months.
Eventually, we will all abandon any
type of exercise if it does not give us
intrinsic joy and genuine satisfaction.
The desire to move must, again, be
motivated by a place from deep inside
Another problem can surface if we
exercise because we are told we must
do it to feel better – not because we
want to exercise to feel better. Isn’t
that just what I am telling you now?
If the exercise is forced, we are
likely at some point to stretch and
challenge our muscles incorrectly.
Tares in tissues and serious injuries
can be the consequences. Injuries
do not happen when exercising
is done mindfully.
Of course, if you are injured you
can not exercise. Is not this the
perfect outcome for anyone who
has always hated to exercise?
The steps are simple to follow:
- Force yourself to exercise in a
way that is not right for you.
- Injure yourself.
- Stop exercising.
- Feel worse.
- Conclude it is your body’s fault
for not working correctly.
If the question you ask yourself
repeatedly when you exercise is:
“How much longer do I have to endure
Stop. Consider the possibility there is
another form of exercise that is a
better way of exercising.
You may very well have expected a
different answer to your question
about exercise. Perhaps you were
looking for an answer like this from
“Everyone with Parkinson’s should
do “Professor Bob’s Zippy 2 Hour
Daily workout for Parkinson’s.”
(Just to be clear in case anyone is
wondering – this program does
This is not the response I can give
you because I do not believe that
any single exercise program – even
Professor Bob’s Zippy program – is
right for everyone. Any particular
type of exercise will always work
for some people, but it will never
work for all people. Far from it.
What is important is to move. Move.
Move. Move every day. The more
your husband moves the better he
Everyone – people who are healthy and
people who are not – should move the
equivalent of 5 miles each day (weekends
included). Total up each of your separate
movements throughout the day to reach
For example: Let’s say a walk from your
bedroom to the kitchen in the morning
is .005 miles. A walk from your car to the
store at 9 am is .02 miles. And so forth.
By the end of the day, the sum total of all
such movements should total 5 miles.
There are many, many ways to move
your body. If your husband is not moving
his body every day, I recommend he
investigate the multitude of options
that are available for getting the daily
exercise he needs: Pilate’s, Tia-chi, yoga,
swimming, daily walks — the list is
endless. There are so many fascinating
ways to get exercise.
If he does not move every day, his body
will eventually begin to complain loudly.
Symptoms will smack him in the face.
Have you noticed that there is redundancy
in my writing here? This is just was exercise
is all about, going through the same routine
over and over, day after day. So get with it.
I am working diligently to document ways
of exercising that people with Parkinson’s
tell me helps them feel better. If your husband
has not found a way of exercising that works
for him, stay tuned.
There is a way of exercising somewhere out
there in the universe that is perfect for him.
He just needs to discover it.
There are also physical therapists who are
specifically trained to help persons with
Parkinson’s. They assess your strengths and
weaknesses and recommend specific exercises
that will help him find relief from his symptoms.
Good options surround you. Explore the options.
Try them out. An exercise routine is not working
for you if you are not doing it regularly and loving
it. Find another. Try it out. Keep experimenting
until you find a way of moving every day that
gives you joy.
Your body will thank you. And you will thank
I am supposed to talk about diet in this
blog too. Oops. Sorry. No time today. I have
to get my daily run in before it gets too
Robert Rodgers, Ph.D.
© 2008 Parkinsons Recovery