What kind of activity?
Physical activity doesn’t necessarily require a structured exercise program. There are many different ways that you can be active!
Some prefer organised classes (walking groups, yoga), while others like activities that can easily fit into their daily life, like standing and sitting from a kitchen chair. No matter what you chose you should always:
1. Consult and plan together with your doctor
2. Set achievable goals
3. Do activities you enjoy
Do it daily
Walking is a good way to increase daily level of physical activity, and has been shown to be beneficial in people with Huntington’s disease (HD). Some places that are good to walk are on a track, around the block or anywhere within the neighborhood or around a shopping centre. Any walking programme should be progressed gradually, starting off for 10-15 minutes at a time and gradually increasing speed and distance.
If balance is a concern, people with HD should always walk with a friend or use walking sticks or other devices.
2 hours and 30 minutes per week is recommended
Aerobic exercise has been shown to improve cardiovascular fitness and motor function in people with Huntington’s. Aerobic exercise requires continuous movement of large muscles to increase the heart rate. This can include activities such as stationary cycling, walking at a brisk pace or uphill, and swimming.
It is important to monitor level of exertion, and to exercise within personal abilities. You should never feel dizzy or exhausted during exercise, and should be able to talk while exercising. You may have awareness of feeling warm and of the heart beating faster.
Similar to walking, aerobic exercise should be progressed slowly, starting out with 10 minutes and gradually increasing time and intensity. Current guidelines recommend 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week.
BALANCE & STRENGTH
Balance and strength can all be affected in people with Huntington’s disease, and exercises to improve these have been shown to be beneficial. While some of these aspects are directly as a result of the disease, problems can be made worse by lack of activity.
Balance: do it daily
Standing on one leg, walking with one foot in front of the other, and standing on uneven surfaces such as foam or pillows can help retrain the balance system. Current guidelines recommend doing balance and coordination exercises daily.
Strength: do it 2-3 times per week
Strengthening exercises such as arm exercises with light weights (e.g. 1-2 kg), as well as leg exercises such as squats and lunges can help counteract some of the degenerative effects of Huntington’s disease. Current guidelines recommend doing strengthening exercises 2-3 times per week.