After being diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2007, I immediately set out to research as much as I could about the disease. I discovered that, unlike many incurable neurologic diseases, Parkinson's could supposedly be well-controlled, at least for the first few years after diagnosis. This period was often called the 'honeymoon period', when many Parkinson's patients could (with help from medication) go on with their lives as though nothing was wrong. And to many of their friends and acquaintances, it would appear as though they were fine.
I say 'supposedly' because it sure didn't seem that way to me. Although things like dressing, eating, and showering were helped with medication, my writing and typing and walking didn't seem to be helped at all.
Fortunately, for forty years before this, I had been a runner. Although I exercised for health benefits (reducing the risk of cardiovascular problems and diabetes), that wasn't the primary reason. I exercised because it helped me cope with stress, because I like the way I felt when I was fit, and I like the feeling of invigoration I felt when I exercised.
For a couple of years before diagnosis, I had missed those feelings because my condition kept me from exercising much. I not only could barely walk, let alone run, I had no energy. Fifteen minutes a day, two days a week, at a very slow pace on the exercise bike or the elliptical was all I could manage. But once I was diagnosed and put on medication, I could do a bit more.
Had I not exercised all those years before my diagnosis, I don't know what I would have done. But as I was questioning the existence of the honeymoon period, I went ahead and exercised as much as I could, for the same reasons as before - to feel better and to cope with stress. I went from 15 minutes a day for two days a week, to 25 or 30 minutes a day for three or four days a week. Eventually I exercised every day.
As my medications were adjusted, and I exercised more, I felt better and better. I also tried to incorporate recent research regarding Parkinson’s and exercise, such as forced cycling. And I added exercises I’d learned in physical therapy.
Eventually I came up with a program that works well for me. I’ve put the results of all this on a website at home.earthlink.net/~strkl/ . What works for me may not work for you. Even if it does, you’ll probably have to adapt it – go faster or slower, do more or fewer repetitions, etc. But I hope that, at least, Parkinson’s patients interested in exercise won’t have to re-invent as much as I did. And I hope I have enough there that they can pick and choose, and find something they like.
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