Introducing "The Jangle": Exercise for Parkinson's Disease
Updated: Apr 12
Hopefully "The Jangle" sounds as fun as it is to do. Before I jump into it, I want to kick this post off with a huge Thank You. I started this blog as a personal project to share my journey with Parkinson's Disease and although I knew I am part of a caring and supportive community, nothing could have prepared me for the response. My first post was viewed by hundreds of people around the world. This is a "heat map" of viewers:
I think my good friend and former manager Scott Cate summed it up well in his tweet:
I thought that $15,000 was a lofty goal for a fundraiser and gave myself until the end of the year to achieve it. Instead, I am already halfway to my goal after just one day! Your giving has been amazing and I am beyond words ... so, "Thank you."
If you enjoy reading this blog and would like to be notified when I publish new posts, simply scroll to the bottom and enter your email in the "subscribe box." So, what's "The Jangle?"
I recently reviewed a recording for the On. NET show that I co-host. I noticed something in a frame that jumped out at me.
It may not seem like a big deal, but this hand illustrates a lot about Parkinson's Disease.
Notice how my fingers are crossed/curled under (especially my ring finger). In addition to tremors, I get stiffness in my left hand. If you relax, your hands likely can rest comfortably with your fingers mostly extended (just a slight bend). In my case, if I don't pay attention, my left hand slowly contracts. It's mainly my "pinkie" and "ring" fingers, but those curling up have the effect of closing my entire hand. I have a similar issue with my left foot. Aside from medication, on way to combat this is through awareness and exercise. I consciously try to stretch my hand open as much as possible to avoid the "claw."
Of all of the treatments for Parkinson's Disease, the one that has shown the most promise to date is regular exercise. For the most part, there is a correlation between more exercise and slower progression of symptoms. I've practiced some form of regular exercise consistently since I dropped 65 pounds nearly 20 years ago, but this is great motivation to be more focused.
In looking at ways to make activity part of my routine, I dusted off and old favorite of mine called, "The Jangle."
The jangle, in short, is a set of body weight exercises you can do anywhere, any time. I learned about it at a conference a few decades ago. I have a cheat sheet I printed out but it doesn't attribute anyone as the source, so we'll give credit to "anonymous."
I personally choose to do this first thing in the morning before anything else. It helps me stretch and "wake up" my body. The movements involve every part of your body, focus on getting blood flow to your limbs, incorporate stretching and target mindful breathing. I do one set straight through of ten (10) reps each, but if I'm pressed for time, I might halve the reps. When I use it as a workout, I add multiple sets. It also works great as a warm-up. There are multiple "phases" separated by the actual "jangling" ...so here goes!
📝 Quick note: most of the exercises involve a "standard width stance." This is typically shoulder width, but an easy way to "set" is to jump. The position you land on is likely your most stable stance and should be considered the baseline.
Phase One: Wake Up!
Twist: standard width stance. Arms out to the sides, parallel with the ground. Rotate your torso left, turning at the hip while keeping your pelvis facing forward. Just your upper body pivots. Bring the arms around in a fluid motion, keeping them parallel to the ground (the stick figure angle is meant to convey depth) with the leading arm spread out as far as your range of motion comfortably allows. Then reverse to the right. That is one repetition.
Tilt: slightly wider than standard width stance. Arms out to the sides, parallel with the ground. Bend left as far as you can bend while keeping your arms in a straight line (try to touch your ankle or the floor). Then straighten, and repeat to the right. That is one repetition. Don't break yourself, my illustration came out a little "broken" but it gave me a good chuckle so I kept it as is.
Rolling Shrug: standard width stance. Arms hanging comfortably at your sides. Rotate your shoulders front to back (hunch forward, up, back, down) for the target number of repetitions, then repeat in the other direction.
Rotate upper: start with standard width stance, then step slightly out with the right leg and point the right toe out (to the right). Extend your left arm with thumb pointing down. Think of the thumb as a counter weight and rotate your arm while keeping the thumb down. Rotate in one direction for the target repetitions, then the opposite. Then repeat by resetting and stepping left.
Rotate lower: start with slightly wider than standard width stance, feet pointed slightly inward. Lift your left foot off the ground. While standing on your right foot only, sweep the left foot in large clockwise circles keeping toes pointed inward. Do this for the target reps, then sweep in the opposite direction. Repeat with the left leg. This will help with balance.
The jangle is the fun part. Start with standard width stance. Now, jog in place while allowing your arms to hang loose. Shake your arms, then breathe in and slowly raise your arms over your head while shaking them the whole time. Breathe out as you slowly lower your arms back. The entire time you are jogging and shaking (or jangling!). Do this three times. Really shake everything out. Look like you are made of jelly!
Phase Two: Hips and Knees
Knee Bends: start with standard width stance. Place hands on hips and rise up on your toes. Try to stay on your toes the entire time. Breathe out as you lower into a squat. Go as low as you comfortably can while maintaining your balance and imagine completely clearing your lungs on the way down. Breathe in as you rise back up. Repeat this for the target repetitions.
Hip Rotations: start with standard width stance. Place hands on hips. Swing hips out and rotate like you are brushing the inside of a barrel. Rotate clockwise for the target reps, then in the opposite direction.
Shake it like a polaroid picture!
Phase Three: Full Body Stretch
Touching toes: start with standard width stance. Go up on toes and try to stay on toes throughout. First, stretch arms up over head and take a deep breath. Focus on stretching hands open and extending your fingers. Next, bend forward at the waist and try to place your fingertips or even palms on the ground. Legs should remain straight but not locked. Exhale on the way down. Pause and repeat.
Jangle Third Time
Shake it out!
Phase Four: Deep Breathing
Flat-footed squats: start with feet slightly wider than standard width. Feet are flat and facing forward. Extend both arms in front, parallel with the ground, palms facing away and fingers pointed up. Maintain the arm position throughout. Exhale and slowly squat as low as you can comfortably go. It should feel like sitting back into a chair. Exhale on the way down and empty your lungs by the bottom of the squat. Inhale and stand back up. Repeat.
Alternating side-bend toe touch: start with a wide stance (as you do this more often you can spread your legs more). With your left hand, bend down and try to touch your left ankle (or the floor beside your left foot if you are flexible enough). Exhale on the way down. Inhale and stand back up. Now exhale and cross the left hand to touch the right ankle. Inhale and straighten. Repeat with right hand. Four touches (left-left, left-right, right-right, right-left) make a single repetition.
Spleen and liver press: start with same wide stance as the previous exercise. Bend down and hug your left leg. Pull it tight into your torso, wrap your arms around and squeeze hard. At the same time, exhale forcibly. It's normal to cough and the goal is to clear your lungs. Stand back up, inhale, then do the same with your right leg. Repeat three times. This is one exercise I don't increase the repetitions on.
Jangle Last Time
Enjoy this last opportunity to flop like a rag doll.
Phase Five: Head Space
Head and neck: the following sequence can be done with three to five reps.
Start with standard width stance, arms hanging loosely at your sides
Looking straight ahead, exhale and tilt your head forward so chin touches chest. In hale and return. Repeat. Keep your eyes open throughout (blinking is fine).
Now exhale and tilt your head back until you are looking up. Keep your eyes open! Inhale and return to the start. Repeat.
Exhale and tilt your head to the right. Try to touch right ear to right shoulder without shrugging. Inhale and straighten. Repeat. Then do the same reps tilting to the left.
Exhale and turn your head as far to the right as you can comfortably go (like looking over your right shoulder). While turned, look up, raise your chin, then rotate in an arc back to the start as you inhale. Repeat. Then do the same reps turning to the left.
Rotate head through full range of motion, first clockwise for the target reps, then counter-clockwise.
Breathing: finally, close out with a deep breathing exercise. Start with a standard width stance. Plug your left nostril with your left hand. Breathe in heavily through your right nostril and stretch your right arm over your head. Extend your fingers and stretch as much as possible. Take as long and deep a breath as you can, and imagine strength entering your body. Then, exhale forcibly out of your mouth and drop forward to bend at your waist and dangle your arms down. Imagine exhaling any weakness. Do this three times, then repeat with the opposite side. Imagine inhaling balance and calm and exhaling chaos and anxiety.
That's it! Personally, I like to close this with a prayer to set the stage for the rest of my day. It goes like this:
"In the hours of this day, Lord God, be my guide. Direct my every action, thought, deed and word that they may better glorify you through your Son, Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. In His name I pray, amen."