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Physical activity during COVID-19

May. 08, 2020

Since the COVID-19 social restrictions came into place, it has become evident that one of the major concerns for many people with Parkinson’s is the impact on ability to engage in exercise.

Physical activity is increasingly shown to positively impact people with Parkinson’s, not only physically but it can improve mental health. Unfortunately, the coronavirus restrictions put a halt to group activities and classes.

It’s important to try to maintain exercise routines and physical activity as much as possible. People with Parkinson’s, particularly those with more advanced symptoms, need to be cautious when choosing to do exercise. However, there are many options you can try at home.

Dr Libby Proud, Dr Joy Tan and Prof. Meg Morris, members of the Physiotherapists in Parkinson’s Special Interest group, supported by Fight Parkinson’s, have collaborated to develop information to help you re-establish physical activity into your routine. 

Therapeutic exercise

If you have a specific exercise program provided by a health professional to manage your difficulties while moving due to Parkinson’s disease, keep it going.

A physiotherapist who specialises in movement disorders can also help you set up an initial exercise program, which may be available through telehealth. Contact us for information on physiotherapists who specialise in movement disorders.

Choosing a suitable program

There are many free online programs to help you maintain physical activity and exercise.

Click here for a range of online programs you can access.

Consult your medical practitioner to check that you are safe to exercise, especially if you have advanced Parkinson’s or other conditions that affect your safety.

Choose a program suitable for your needs and ability. This self-assessment can help you to choose an appropriate program:

  • Do you use a walking aid such as a walking frame or stick?
  • Have you had a recent fall of more than 2 falls in the last 12 months?
  • Do you freeze when walking, turning or taking the first step to walk?
  • Do you have dizziness or light-headedness?
  • Do you have multi-morbidity? (a number of medical conditions)
  • Have you recently had surgery?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, it’s recommended that you consider a chair-based program and also hold on to a bench or other support when doing any standing exercises.

Some online programs include a modified version of the exercise program which allows you to stay seated or hold on while standing.

Precautions when exercising

  • Exercise when your Parkinson’s medications are working well.
  • Avoid exercising alone.
  • Ensure your phone is within reach
  • Avoid distractions, turn off other devices
  • Exercise in a clear space. Remove tripping hazards e.g. rugs.
  • Put pets in another room.
  • Wear loose clothing and supportive, well-fitting footwear

If you are looking at exercise resources online, using this guidance is a great place to start so you can find the exercise that is right for you and most importantly is safe.

The number one choice is to get out of your home and TAKE A WALK outside in the fresh air if it is a safe option.  

If you were taking part in an exercise program prior to the COVID-19 restriction, check to see if they have any recommendations of online classes you can take part in.

If you see a physiotherapist, you should also check if they are offering online classes.

Online exercise resources

Check out the following websites for resources developed specially for people with Parkinson’s:

The Safe Exercise at Home website has been developed by physiotherapists from around Australia with clinical and academic expertise in exercise and other forms of physical activity for older people and people with mobility limitations. 

European Parkinson’s Disease Association offers an online video exercise program – the EPDA ExerciseCast, developed as a response to the lockdown situation created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) has links to a number of at-home activities, including exercise programs, yoga and tai chi.

Dance for PD at Home has daily live classes on Zoom.

Power for Parkinson’s, Fitness for Mind & Body offers free exercise, dance, and singing classes through a free home YouTube video series.

Re+Active physical therapy and wellness offers free Online Exercise Resources including sitting exercise class and links to a range of other activity websites.

Parkinson’s UK have produced a number of at-home exercise videos.

You can also go to YouTube and search for ‘exercise at home with Parkinson’s’ to find a range of instructional videos. If you have a Smart TV, you will be able to watch YouTube via the TV. If not, view it on your computer or tablet:

Neurofit BC free exercise videos

Parkinson Canada virtual workouts

Parkinson Association of Southwest Florida seated exercise

APDA Greater St Louis Chapter exercise classes

More Health Life – Simple Exercises for Seniors 

Resources on offer at the moment include a mix of free and paid programs, so make sure to check what you are committing to.

And remember, if you have any questions or concerns about doing exercise at home, you can speak to a member of the Fight Parkinson's Health team on 1800 644 189.


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