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The 5 Best Balance Exercises for Parkinson's According to a PT

Amanda Turner
September 1, 2023

Written by Amanda Turner, Personal Trainer

Reviewed by Josef Rappaport, DPT, Physical Therapist


It can be hard to learn that you or a loved one have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. While the disease is life-changing, there are many treatments that can improve your quality of life, including at-home balance exercise. Let’s explore some basic information on Parkinson’s disease, as well as the best balance exercises you can do at home to contribute to your well-being as you cope with Parkinson’s. 

What Is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that gets worse with time. People who have Parkinson’s have problems in the basal ganglia, the part of the brain that controls coordination and movement. The nerve cells in the basal ganglia become dysfunctional or die, affecting the way a person with Parkinson's can move throughout their day-to-day activities. Parkinson’s disease can lead to many symptoms, including coordination issues, shaking, stiffness, problems with walking, and balance issues. 

In addition to deterioration of the cells that control movement and balance, people who have Parkinson’s disease also lose the part of the brain that creates norepinephrine, a chemical that’s essential to many of the body’s processes. Some researchers believe that the lack of norepinephrine in the mind and body of a person with Parkinson’s causes some of the non-movement-related symptoms of the disease, including digestive problems, blood pressure issues, and fatigue.

Most people with Parkinson’s disease are diagnosed around age 60, but some people are diagnosed early with early-onset Parkinson’s. There are many issues that can cause Parkinson’s disease. Some people are genetically disposed to the condition, while others develop the disease after exposure to chemicals—like Paraquat weed killer—that are known to cause Parkinson’s.

Paraquat is produced by many different companies, most notably Syngenta. Paraquat is recognized as extremely dangerous by the U.S. Center for Disease COntrol and Prevention and it has been classified as a “restricted use” item. This means that only licensed applicators may obtain and use it. Furthermore Paraquat produced in the U.S. has added chemicals that cause the substance to be dyed blue, add an unpleasant aroma, and induce vomiting if swallowed. All of these safeguards are good for preventing poisoning from ingestion, but do not address the microdoses that can occur from continuous contact from the substances. These microdoses are allegedly the cause of Parkinson’s in Paraquat users.

Parkinson’s and Balance

Important note: Before starting a new exercise program, be sure to talk with your doctor about how to exercise safely.

Changes in how your body moves can make it feel different to exercise after a Parkinson’s diagnosis. Staying active is important, and can help to mitigate your systems, allowing you to move throughout your life more easily. 

Before getting started with an exercise program, you’ll want to set yourself up for success. Find a time each way that you’re able to exercise, and treat that time as an important appointment that you can’t cancel. Keep track of your progress as you do your balance exercises, either by taking video recordings of yourself or making notes on how you feel after each session. 

We consulted with a Physical Therapist, and here are five balance exercises that they recommend:

Balance Exercise #1: Side Steps

Start with feet shoulder-width apart. Raise your right leg, tap your foot on the floor a few inches further to the right. Repeat on left leg. If necessary, use a chair, wall, or other stationary object for balance. 

Balance Exercise #2: Tandem Walk

Walk in a straight line, placing one foot in front of the other as close to the preceding foot as possible. For an added balance challenge, cross the arms as you walk. 

Balance Exercise #3: Lateral Weight Shift

Stand with feet hip-width apart, with hands-on a chair or table for balance. With a soft bend in the knees, carefully shift weight to one side, then shift to the other side. 

Balance Exercise #4: Single Leg Stand

Start standing up straight. Lift one foot, and slightly bend the knee of the standing leg. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. 

Balance Exercise #5: Backwards Walking

Walk backwards slowly, holding onto a wall or rail for support if necessary.

Are You Or A Loved One Suffering From Parkinson’s Disease After Paraquat Exposure?

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease after working with or being exposed to the weed killer Paraquat, you’re not alone. Many people have suffered debilitating health issues following exposure to the chemical. Working closely with your healthcare provider and utilizing at-home measures (such as the above exercises) can help you improve your quality of life as you fight Parkinson’s.

For a free case evaluation, click here.

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We are here to help you and loved ones advocate for justice. Feel free to send us any questions you might have, either about an injury or the process for pursuing justice so we can help you exercise your rights.

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