Parkinson's Disease & The Art of Moving
Why do I need to exercise?
Parkinson's disease (PD) is a common disorder of the brain. It develops because of damage to the part of the nervous system that controls movement, posture, and balance. This damage causes symptoms that develop insidiously and progressively throughout the person's lifetime.
Medications are only half the battle; they can do much to make things better, but a program of exercise is essential to achieve and maintain the best quality of life.
Until a cure is found, the person with PD will be faced with increasing difficulties. Stiffness, tremor, slowness and poverty of movement, difficulty with balance, difficulty walking, speech difficulties, loss of voice power A well-designed exercise program can address all these symptoms with very meaningful results.
Exercise can also help with the symptoms that appear in some people but not in others, such as gait disturbances, freezing, leg cramps, immobile or "masked" face, decreased blinking, difficulty swallowing.
You cannot predict which symptoms may come to you or when they will appear. Therefore, it is better to prepare your body to cope with as wide a range of symptoms as possible.
When should I start exercising?
You should start exercising as soon after diagnosis as possible, because PD is a progressive disease. With PD you face an increasing level of difficulty through the rest of your life. Symptoms get worse over time and new symptoms appear. You may be able to delay and prevent the severity of your voice problems, for example, if you have been actively practicing voice exercises in advance. Your worst course of action is to do nothing. For a person with PD, inactivity results in atrophy. The familiar warning holds true: Use it or lose it.
What kind of exercise works best for people with PD?
The root of all Parkinson's symptoms can be found in the malfunction of the complex motor programs stored in the basal ganglia. "Automatic" actions do not work well for people with Parkinson's.
In order to deal with the loss of automatic movements, you need to learn to move and speak consciously. That's where the art of moving comes in. You must learn to move with full awareness of what you are doing from moment to moment. You need to develop a deliberate, "on purpose," way of doing things, just as actors on stage must do.
What should be the goal of my exercise program?
Your overall goal – your strategy for coping with whatever symptoms come along – should be to develop an artful way of moving and speaking. And just what do I mean by that? An artful action is one that is graceful, mindful, and complete. (GMC)
- Graceful – you will learn to combine power with ease. You need to find the easiest and safest way to do things that still gets the job done.
- Mindful – you will learn to be mindful, intentional, and aware of what you are doing while you are doing it.
- Complete – you will learn to divide big actions into parts, then finish each part before you begin the next part.
Why is the John Argue Method better than any other?
It focuses directly on Parkinson's symptoms. Movement and voice exercises are adapted from theater and dance training. Many derive from the principles of Yoga and Tai Chi Chuan, the ancient Chinese exercise art.
It will help you anticipate, prevent, and delay symptoms. These exercises deal with symptoms in advance of their appearance, with an eye to anticipating, delaying, or even preventing symptom emergence.
The program is paced to your personal needs. Every person with PD proceeds at his or her own pace, and that pace can vary from moment to moment. Since these exercises are broken down action by action, you can work at any pace you are comfortable with.
The lessons are engaging and interesting. Boredom with any exercise program threatens any person's long-term success. This program is engaging and aesthetically pleasing. Think of it as an art form, rather than as calisthenics. Like all art forms, the program offers clear challenges in a safe context, procedural guidance, and a rewarding series of accomplishments over time.
Is there a book and video of exercises specifically for people with PD?
My book Parkinson's Disease & the Art of Moving presents a series of ten lessons that focuses precisely on PD symptoms. The lessons comprise a comprehensive, effective, adaptable, and interesting program.
In my Video Companion Parkinson’s Disease & the Art of Moving I guide you through all the exercises in the book.
Where can I get a copy of the book?
You may order the book Parkinson's Disease & the Art of Moving, ISBN 1-57224-183-7, at your favorite local or online bookstore. Click here to order. You can order the Video Companion here.
Will I need any special equipment to do this program?
No special equipment is required; only a sturdy chair, a few tennis balls, and a carpeted floor.
The Book explains the need for each exercise.
The Video Companion takes you through each exercise one step at a time.
The program may be done at home.
However, you will do best if you also attend a weekly ongoing PD exercise class.
Your local Parkinson’s Support organization may be able to help you find or start a class.
Hospitals will often make their meeting rooms available for exercise support groups. Senior centers and churches also have spaces that could work.
Will this program take a lot of time?
You will want to do at least one lesson on your own every day. You may manage by yourself just fine, but many people find that exercise hours happen more reliably if you invite someone to accompany you – a friend, a classmate, your partner, a child or grandchild, or somebody new to PD.
Or you may prefer to vary your activities, do your Art of Moving lesson every other day, and get out to do some swimming, golfing, gardening, or walking on the odd days. This program encourages an extension of the skills you learn into other life activities, like sports or the arts.
If you work with a paid personal trainer in private lessons, budget one meeting a week for half an hour.
Group time should be one or two meetings a week for one and half-hours each meeting.
Can I do this program on my own?
You can work alone, but it will be difficult for you to read the exercises and focus on what you are doing at the same time. That’s why I made the Video Companion to take you through each and every exercise one step at a time.
You may find that a PD exercise group suits you better. There are many benefits to working with a group.
Even with group exercise, you will be well rewarded for working out at home two to four times per week.
How can I find a group?
This program is ideally suited to a small class of not more than ten people.
Many benefits come from belonging to a group.
- Your group will share information about how they cope day by day with PD.
- You will get to know each other and support each other.
- People say they find close personal friendships and understanding from their exercise groups.
- Your partner or caregiver can take the class time off for themselves.
How do I choose a group leader?
You can take a copy of the Book & the Video Companion to your prospective teacher. The teacher could use these materials as the basic lesson plan for the class.
- Look for a teacher with a background in teaching theater, dance, yoga, or Tai Chi.
- You want someone who provides a living example of the art of movement.
- Look for a teacher whose voice is beautiful, who moves well, and who is flexible and calm in manner.
- Look for a teacher who will do the exercises with you, so you can model your efforts on theirs.
- Look for a teacher or coach who is patient yet firm. Avoid teachers who bully and scold. You want that special quality called "tough love."
Your teacher may even have access to a studio where you can conduct the class.
Will I fit in with a group? If I'm already getting into mid-range or advanced symptoms, won't I be a burden and hold everyone back?
Safety first, challenge second. Each person must proceed at a pace that guarantees safety, while at the same time taking on enough challenges to make progress.
Your teacher will adapt the lessons to the differing abilities of members of a group.
Each lesson has a built-in progression from a beginner's limits toward increasing ability.
Lessons progress from easy and safe toward difficult and challenging.
When is the best time to exercise?
Your workout needs to be done. All practitioners of the arts know this, and the successful ones do a daily routine, rain or shine.
The hardest part is beginning. Once you start, the work quickly becomes easier. My grandfather had a saying, "It's like getting olives out of a jar: after the first, the rest come easy."
There are many ways to make your exercise time work.
- Alice and Marianne meet at Alice's house and do their exercises together.
- Miguel's wife works out with him. She says it helps to keep her fit.
- Wilson hired a personal trainer to come to the house three times a week.
- Sonia plays her favorite music during her workout.
- Harry rewards himself with a dish of ice cream after the exercises. Find what works for you and stick to it.
How can I keep myself motivated?
- PLAY at your exercises instead of "working" at them.
- Decide ahead of time to work for an hour, and at the end of the hour, stop!
- Become a coach for someone else. Sometimes people who just can't make themselves do any exercise for their own good will turn out regular as clockwork to help somebody else.
- Reward yourself. A reward can be very helpful in keeping to your routine.
- Don't be too hard on yourself. Do for today what you can for today. Forgive yourself and begin again. As the poet Rilke said, "Always be beginning."
These satisfactions will bring you back the next day ready and willing.