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 Beating back advancing Parkinson's symptoms through daily exercise

During my last visit, my neurologist told me something I never expected to hear: "You exercise too much to qualify for the NIH exercise study. They are seeking PWP who are basically sedentary."

Was she yanking my chain or was this some cruel joke, I wondered. I had been sedentary my entire pre-Parkinson's life and it had never qualified me for anything good.

Over the past 11 years, I have developed a daily exercise program that addresses:

  • Stretching and range-of-motion to maintain flexibility
  • Strengthening abdominal and back muscles critical to good posture.
  • Aerobic exercises to aid cardio-respiratory fitness and prevent a decline in "executive functions" of concentration, attention and mental flexibility. To be effective, you must maintain your chosen activity at a moderate intensity for 20 minutes to an hour. This means getting your heart rate up to 60% to 80% of your maximum (220 minus your age in years).

Check with your doctor before starting an exercise routine.

My strategy seems to be working. Participating in the APDA Midwest Chapter’s 2008 Walk-A-Thon, I doubled the distance I covered on the same route in 2007, walking 1-1/2 miles at a pretty good clip. Although I didn’t set a new Olympic record, family members who walked with me made me feel like I had brought home the gold, and it was written all over my face.

Friends say I’m probably in the best shape of my life except for the fact that I have Parkinson’s disease. That’s no small exception, but daily exercise has helped me hold the line, and that’s big when you’re talking about a progressive, debilitating disease."

Do I enjoy exercise more now that I’ve experienced some success with it, they want to know. No, but knowing it is the only thing standing between disability, and me, I keep up my routine.

Do the endorphins released by exercise improve my mood? Who are we kidding… not nearly as much as those released by eating a Cherry Garcia bar.

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Friends say I'm probably in the best shape of my life except for the fact that I have Parkinson's disease.

Family members who participated with me in the 2008 Midwest
Chapter Walk-A-Thon made me feel like I had brought home the gold.



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