Exercise and Fitness

From the Winter 2000 issue of Hopes & Dreams, newsletter of the Illinois Chapter, Huntington's Disease Society of America.

Excerpted from A Caregiver's Handbook for Advanced-Stage Huntington's Disease by Jim Pollard.

As the disease progresses, the individual with HD will decline in health and lead a more sedentary lifestyle. Although the disease process can't be altered, a routine exercise program can help to address all areas of decline and help him become stronger, improve balance and posture, and feel more in control of his body. With aerobic activity such as pedalling a stationary bike, it is possible to improve breathing, which in turn helps with breath control for talking and eating. Improvement in deep breathing can help him maintain his ability to cough effectively, which in turn helps prevent choking and aspiration pneumonia. People who regularly exercise are able to clear secretions more efficiently when they do have colds or pneumonia. Please always consult your physician before starting any exercise program.

Sample Exercise Plan

All exercises should be done slowly, five to ten times each.

Arm Exercises:

  1. Lie on your back with your legs straight. Stretch your arms overhead, hold the position momentarily, then relax.
  2. Lie on your back with your legs straight and arms at your side. Make a fist, strongly straighten your arm, raise it about 30 degrees, hold it, open your fingers, then slowly lower your arm to the floor.

Breathing Exercises:

  1. Close your mouth. Inhale through your nose while expanding your chest and abdomen. Hold for a few seconds. Exhale through the mouth as completely as possible.
  2. Do it again; this time exhale through your nose and make the sound "mmm".
  3. Now again, exhaling through your mouth while making the sound "ahhh".
  4. Again and cough two times.
  5. Again and this time swallow after you exhale.

Trunk Exercises:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips up, hold the position, lower yourself down slowly, then relax.
  2. Roll onto your stomach, then push yourself up on your hands and knees. Raise one arm forward, reach out and hold the position. Now lower your arm and raise the opposite leg up as straight as possible. Hold the leg up, then lower slowly. Repeat it with the other arm and leg.
  3. Begin on your hands and knees, then lower your hips so that your shoulders, hips and knees are in a straight line. Now lift your feet off the ground, bend your elbows, and lower your upper body to the floor and back up in a modified push up.

Gross Motor and Balance Exercises:

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs crossed. Try to keep your knees as low as possible. Now reverse your legs.
  2. Sit on the floor with your back and legs straight. Reach for your toes. Hold that position. Repeat.
  3. Standing with your feet six inches apart, shrug your shoulders up toward your ears, hold that position, then relax.
  4. Walk forward with one foot in front of the other as if you were walking on a straight line. Now try it going backwards.
  5. Stand on one foot. Count the number of seconds you can do it. Now do the other foot.

Created and maintained by Renette Davis. Send comments to Renette by clicking here.

Created: Jan. 2, 2001
Last updated: Dec. 1, 2010