There is plenty of scientific research to back up the belief that being outside in nature is medicine for the mind. Studies have shown over the years that our concentration, cognition, creativity, and productivity can all be boosted by going outside more often.
This is especially beneficial for people living with Parkinson’s disease who struggle with memory and cognition impairment, as well as stress, anxiety, and depression.
We had a chance to talk with Sukhee So Chinn, PT, DPT, CEEAA from Kaiser Permanente in Portland, Oregon about what summer activities are great for Parkinson’s. Sukhee has worked as a neuro physical therapist for the last 11 years. In Portland, she leads many group hikes and outdoor adventures.
Sukhee’s top 3 summer activities she recommends enjoying are: swimming or other water aerobics, kayaking and cycling. Read more about the benefits of these activities, and then get outside!
Swimming or Water Aerobics
Working out in the water gives people with Parkinson’s the freedom to move without fear of falling, do weight-bearing exercise without joint stress, and resistance train without weights or bands. Just simply being in the water can often soothe and relax the body and mind. The warmer water helps with joints and mobility, and pools are accessible making it easy to get in and out.
Using your own strength to power the vessel, kayaking helps strength the core by rotating the torso. This repetitive, rotatory movement of the torso is helpful to people with Parkinson’s who struggle with rigidity. Torso rotations can get a bit more challenging with the progression of Parkinson’s so kayaking and other paddle sports are a great way to combat the symptoms of PD, while keeping the body nice and flexible.
What has two wheels and can increase balance, flexibility, and joint mobility; improve posture and coordination; strengthen bones and muscles; and decrease body weight and stress levels? You guessed it – a bicycle! Experts believe cycling can help increase certain proteins in the brain that help with movement and cognitive function – making it one of the most beneficial activities for keeping Parkinson’s symptoms in check. Sukhee suggests adaptive bikes that include recumbent bikes, three-wheelers, handcycles and other accessible bicycles, designed to stay upright and prevent falls. You might even find a bike with electric assist, giving you a pedal power boost.
With all these activities and others like hiking, Sukhee recommends the following for preparation:
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