We absolutely love Spring. There’s something so magical about the awakening power of Spring after a long and cold winter. One of the things we love most about this time of year is that it allows us to start getting outside again into the warm and sunny weather.
And since we’re always thinking about Parkinson’s disease, and the millions of courageous people around the world who battle its motor and non-motor symptoms every day, we got curious: Does being outside have a particular benefit for people with Parkinson’s?
We did some research, and what we found was fascinating! Here’s what some leading minds in Parkinson’s disease research had to say about the subject.
The Brian Grant Foundation, a Parkinson’s awareness organization created by the former NBA star after his diagnosis in 2008, says being outdoors has tremendous health benefits for people with Parkinson’s.
The site suggests people with Parkinson’s, well, take a hike.
“Depending on the length and intensity of the trail, and the steepness of your incline, you’re in for a powerful cardio workout that can lower your risk of heart disease and improve your blood pressure and blood sugar levels, while filling your lungs with fresh, clean air.”
In addition to being a great workout, the article notes, hiking outdoors can be a soothing way to clear your mind while enjoying nature.
“Adding to the fact that you’re taking in the mesmerizing sounds of wildlife and some of the most scenic views Mother Earth has to offer—be it forests, mountains, deserts, waterfalls, rivers or creeks—hiking nourishes the mind, body and soul in ways no other workout can.”
Spending time outdoors is more than just good advice, however. Scientific studies have shown experiences in nature can help relieve certain symptoms—non-motor and motor alike—among people with Parkinson’s.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently published some research indicating walking on the uneven surfaces of the great outdoors could help people with Parkinson’s relieve the freezing-of-gait symptom, in which they feel like their feet are stuck or glued to the ground.
The study’s abstract concludes, “our results, if repeated in future studies, may have significance to everyday lives of PD patients, who could get a simpler life by consciously prioritizing stays in natural surroundings.”
The Michael J. Fox foundation, an always reliable source for the latest Parkinson’s disease research and discussion, also had great things to say about being in the outdoors.
In this article, the MJFF explores a study reporting that nature walks are good for our brains.
And here they suggest seven Spring workouts for people with Parkinson’s symptoms.
Finally, we took it straight to the people themselves. We asked some of the biggest Parkinson’s communities on social media to weigh in on the subject, and the answer was clear: Being outdoors makes a big difference.
“For some reason I can walk through the park on trails better than in my house,” Mike F. said. “I do still ‘freeze,’ but not as often or severe! Exercise definitely helps!”
“Gardening really helps me,” Shaun M. said.
Shawn H. added, “the Vitamin D from sunshine and fresh air help alot [sic].”
“My [husband with Parkinson’s] just appreciated getting out and seeing the world because in the last year and a half of his life it happened so little,” said Hillary M., a Parkinson’s caregiver. “Cheered him right up to see trees and flowers, or even the neighbors’ front lawns – I’d take him down the stair lift, out the door, and set him up on a chair on our front steps.”
“Just being outside is a gift,” Mark B. said.
Don’t let this good weather go to waste! Do something good for your body, mind and soul, and spend some quality time outside.