first posted on HealthUnlocked – Parkinson’s Movement Community in answer to the question “Does anyone do exercise to help their balance problems?”
I have been living with a PD diagnosis for 9 years, have been on levodopa medication for 8.1/2 of them and over the years have adopted various ways of maintaining/ improving balance.
First off, I started by just carefully standing on one foot and then the other, sometimes trying some arm movements while doing and/ or trying to raise the legs in different postures – this wasn’t always very successful but usually ended up with me in giggles. At the time of diagnosis I shared my home with my Shiba Inu dog and he was always happy with me, however daft I might appear!
Then I found out about Swiss Balance Balls – they are the very large inflatable balls you find in all gyms these days. I bought one for my height/weight and found that there are a lot of exercises available for these online and physios can advise you one what is best for you. It is easy to find what works for you – most of the time, though, I would just try one-foot-off-the-ground balancing, some rolling from side-to-side, or I would sit on it to watch TV.
Finally, just before Christmas 2014, I discovered gym quality mini- trampolines when I was Googling for “balance exercises”.
From watching several YouTube videos – “gentle health bouncing” to energetic pre-ski workouts – I decided to make a mini-trampoline my Christmas present to myself. I loved the idea that they are used by NASA to help astronauts regain bone density without jarring the leg joints (at the bottom of the bounce your weight increases due to the effects of gravity) and of course there are cardio benefits too.
The mini-trampoline I have is the Urban Rebounder – it is permanently in place on my sitting-room floor. It is probably about 4ft in diameter, it has a detachable grip rail but I just position it beside a sturdy dining-chair these days. I started just by standing and gently bouncing – the idea is to bounce down rather than jump up – and although I can’t properly run/march due to leg hesitation, I can bounce and lift my heels as if walking on the spot. You don’t have to do a mega session unless you want to or are able to – in fact I tend to hop on it while waiting for a kettle to boil, i.e., just for a few minutes at a time, several times most days..
I feel my balance is improving, my posture is straighter…and, I absolutely love the child-like sense of glee I get when I am on it.
Wherever you live, first have your GP/family physician confirm that there is no other medical reason to stop you using a rebounder and then get bouncing and find out for yourself just how much fun it is.
I would also urge you to get your GP/family physician to refer you to rehab. physio – it is really worth getting physio advice on specific Parkinson issues and what help your situation needs.
Health bouncing has an immensely beneficial effect on one’s lymphatic system. All I knew about the lympatic system was that it is the body’s waste-disposal system (you can Google for more info) but what I didn’t know is that, unlike the blood circulatory system, it doesn’t work if you don’t move!!! As I have been mostly on my bed for a few years now due to gastro issues unconnected with my parkinsonism, I was horrified to realise that my lymph system was probably stagnating as a consequence! So… gentle on-the-spot walking /bouncing (or even strenuous if you can manage it) on a rebounder will re-energise your lymphatic system.
Hope this helps!