Staying Active: Hobbies and Exercises For Parkinson’s Disease

Michael J. Fox. Neil Dia­mond. Ozzy Osbourne. On the sur­face, it might not seem like these three celebri­ties have much in com­mon, but they all share a spe­cif­ic con­nec­tion. They’ve all been diag­nosed with Parkinson’s disease. 

Source: Nation­al Insti­tute of Neu­ro­log­i­cal Dis­or­ders and Stroke 

Parkin­son’s dis­ease (PD) is a kind of move­ment dis­or­der, mean­ing that it affects someone’s abil­i­ty to move. While these kinds of con­di­tions affect the way your body func­tions, they are actu­al­ly neu­ro­log­ic con­di­tions, mean­ing they are caused by changes in the brain. 

Although move­ment dis­or­ders like PD can have a big impact on your abil­i­ties, there are still many oppor­tu­ni­ties to stay active. From dif­fer­ent hob­bies to exer­cis­es, there are mul­ti­ple ways you can have fun, man­age your symp­toms, and take care of your phys­i­cal and men­tal health. 

Ways to Get Moving 

Phys­i­cal move­ment and exer­cise are impor­tant parts of your jour­ney with Parkinson’s dis­ease. Get­ting moti­vat­ed to get mov­ing can be tough, but it can also affect your con­di­tion and life. 

Phys­i­cal activ­i­ty can slow down the pro­gres­sion of your PD and help you main­tain your mobil­i­ty for a longer peri­od. It can also be a help­ful tool to man­age and lessen your pain relat­ed to your PD and help improve your mood, mem­o­ry, sleep, and qual­i­ty of life.

Here are some ways you can get mov­ing and make exer­cise a reg­u­lar part of your routine.

Car­dio Exercise

Exer­cis­es like box­ing, run­ning, walk­ing, hik­ing, and bicy­cling have been shown to slow the pro­gres­sion of Parkinson’s dis­ease. Stud­ies have shown that high-inten­si­ty exer­cise increas­es blood flow and oxy­gen while send­ing increased amounts of dopamine and endor­phins to the brain. In addi­tion to the chem­i­cal ben­e­fits from intense exer­cise, it can help bal­ance and gait issues as well.

Tai Chi, Yoga, or Stretch­ing Programs

One kind of exer­cise to work into your rou­tine is bal­ance exer­cis­es. As your Parkinson’s dis­ease pro­gress­es, you might notice changes in your bal­ance or mobil­i­ty. To main­tain and prac­tice your bal­ance, you could choose an activ­i­ty like tai chi or yoga. 

There are many oth­er local exer­cise class­es you can take — some are even specif­i­cal­ly designed for peo­ple with Parkinson’s dis­ease. Phys­i­cal activ­i­ty doesn’t have to be lone­ly. Con­sid­er join­ing an exer­cise group for peo­ple with PD to help you stay moti­vat­ed and connected.

Neu­ro­log­ic Therapy

Get­ting mov­ing on your own — or even know­ing where to start — can be tricky when you have Parkinson’s dis­ease. At worst, it can be dan­ger­ous if you’re not sure what you can or can’t do.

Phys­i­cal ther­a­py can help.

Also called neuro­log­ic ther­a­py, this kind of treat­ment can help slow the pro­gres­sion of your con­di­tion, while also help­ing to improve your strength, bal­ance, mus­cle tone, and flex­i­bil­i­ty. If your physi­cian rec­om­mends this kind of phys­i­cal ther­a­py, be sure to attend your appoint­ments and do any at-home exer­cis­es they recommend.


Get­ting more move­ment in your rou­tine isn’t just about the motions you asso­ciate with exer­cise” or fit­ness.” Any­thing you can do to safe­ly get mov­ing and use your motor skills can be help­ful for your phys­i­cal and your men­tal health. 

One activ­i­ty that can help you get mov­ing is gar­den­ing. The act of gar­den­ing can include plant­i­ng seeds, weed­ing, and dig­ging — all of which can help your hand mobil­i­ty and strength. Beyond the phys­i­cal ben­e­fits, gar­den­ing can also sup­port your men­tal health too. 

Everyone’s body is dif­fer­ent and the safest exer­cis­es are the ones informed by your med­ical con­di­tion and your provider’s exper­tise. The best kinds of exer­cis­es that you choose for your Parkinson’s dis­ease are the exer­cis­es approved by your care team — like your phys­i­cal ther­a­pist or neu­rol­o­gist.

Find­ing a New Hobby

Your Parkinson’s diag­no­sis or pro­gres­sion might make you feel as though you can’t do the things you love to do. It can be chal­leng­ing when your body or abil­i­ty changes, and it’s okay to feel frus­trat­ed. But you don’t have to feel hope­less. In fact, you might actu­al­ly be sur­prised by how much you can still do — and what new activ­i­ties you might enjoy. 


Find­ing a new hob­by can be a great way to boost your ener­gy and give you some­thing to look for­ward to. One new pas­time you might check out is bird­watch­ing. It doesn’t require a ton of move­ment (you can sit by a win­dow and watch the birds), but it can also allow you to spend some time out­side or in nature. You can begin bird­watch­ing today, just by step­ping out­side and notic­ing what you see and hear. Get­ting famil­iar with the birds in your area is a great place to start. 

As you get more involved, you may want to bor­row a guide of native birds from your local library or buy a pair of binoc­u­lars. These can help you not only watch the birds but iden­ti­fy them too.

Play­ing Cards 

While you might think of card games as a slow or sta­tion­ary pas­time, there’s a major mus­cle that you must use dur­ing a game: your brain. Card games like bridge or gin rum­my encour­age play­ers to think about strat­e­gy while also using their mem­o­ry — so these games can be great for old­er play­ers and play­ers with Parkinson’s dis­ease.

Depend­ing on the pro­gres­sion of your PD, you may be wor­ried about your hand-eye coor­di­na­tion. Shuf­fling can be a good short work­out for your hands, but there are also many assis­tive devices that can shuf­fle your cards and hold them for you. 

Paint­ing or Oth­er Art

After receiv­ing a diag­no­sis for Parkinson’s dis­ease, you might think that you can’t start or keep cre­at­ing art. While your body will change over time, you can still cre­ate — and there have been many artists, musi­cians, and actors who have con­tin­ued mak­ing art after learn­ing they have PD.

Art and art ther­a­py can give you an oppor­tu­ni­ty to use your hands, but also to express how you’re feel­ing. Many peo­ple find art to be a great out­let, and this is true whether you have PD or not. Get a group of friends togeth­er for a paint­ing night or to learn a new craft you’ve nev­er done before. There are many hob­bies you can learn at any point in your life. 

Build­ing a Rou­tine When You Have Parkinson’s Disease

Get­ting a diag­no­sis for Parkinson’s dis­ease is life-chang­ing — and it can leave you won­der­ing what the future holds. There’s no get­ting around the fact that there is a lot of uncer­tain­ty around PD, and that you might find your­self feel­ing over­whelmed or scared. 

Life doesn’t end with a PD diag­no­sis, but it does change. But just because life changes, doesn’t mean that you still can’t find things to do that are fun and easy to do. 

Health Topics:

  • We all come from different walks of life, with experiences and stories that make us all unique. I am lucky that I work in a field that allows to me to be able to spend time with each one of my patients, allowing me to listen to their stories in order to gain a greater understanding of their condition so that I am able to provide the help and support they need to recover.