Can Exercise Really Help My PD?
Last updated: December 2020
I decided a long time ago in my 22 years living with Parkinson’s disease, that I wasn’t going to let PD’s effects rule my life. I made a vow to myself, to fight and find a way to overcome the devastating symptoms that seemed prevalent and frustrating in many people that I knew living with this disease.
At this point, I must confess, I am not a huge fan of exercise per se, but few people I’ve met are. There is just something about investing a whole lot of energy on an activity that I am going to have to repeat.
My introduction to fitness
In high school, I ran track, wrestled and even tried out for the baseball team which I didn’t make. I guess I wasn’t athletic enough although I had a very busy social life and a keen interest in 1970’s muscle cars but I digress. At that time in my life, I never got sick, didn’t exactly eat proper meals and thought going to the doctor was for sick people.
In 1982, I joined the U.S. Marine Corps and received an up-close and personal introduction to physical fitness training. It felt like this was an advanced program of exercise to the extreme. I used muscles I never knew I had. I learned respiratory and cardiac control, pushed the upper limits of my body’s capabilities and was at the peak of physical fitness I’d ever experienced in my entire life.
I no longer take a passive approach to exercise. Instead, I learned to appreciate the benefits of exercise even more so because PD and I must coexist.
Fighting a lack of motivation
Fast forward 30 plus years and my attitude toward exercise has changed a bit. The medical community has done extensive research into the benefits of exercise for not just those living with PD but the effects of aging.
If only I had listened to my grandfather while he was still alive. “Eat healthy meals, get plenty of sleep, live an active lifestyle.” Such wise words from such a smart man. Unfortunately, he died at the age of 53 of cancer.
I am sharing this because, whether you have PD or not, all the exercise in the world isn’t going to help you if you don’t actually do it. In other words my grandfather was one to say, “Do as I say” type of people.
I don’t want to be that guy. I don’t mean to offend anyone who regularly subscribes and dedicates themselves to exercise routines. I have a lot of respect for those that do and I apologize to all the gurus, personal trainers and physical therapists out there that provide those valuable services to a suffering community and for kicking us in the butt to put real effort toward good intentions.
There is a lot of information out there about exercise for people with PD and most of it is good. My point is PD is a chronic, progressive disease that accelerates the aches and pains associated with it and can erode even the most positive and best intentions.
Working with a physical therapist
Multiple scientific studies have concluded that exercise of any type that emphasizes movement and increased respiratory and cardio levels provide benefits. This is where I score extra points with the physical therapists out there. Before beginning any exercise program you should consult with a physical therapist. What? Why? Thanks for asking!
If you have PD for any length of time, you will at some point in your diagnosis will probably see a physical therapist. Remember the part about PD being chronic and progressive? A good PT can recommend and evaluate progress and make adjustments.
The bottom-line here is, yes, exercise can and will benefit the millions of people living with Parkinson’s disease and maintain quality of life so get out there and exercise people. A list of exercise programs suitable for people with PD is readily available at: https://parkinsonsdisease.net/treatment/exercise/
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