Running for my life: How I exercise to feel better with Parkinson’s

A memorable trek around the world offers motivation for today

Christine Scheer avatar

by Christine Scheer |

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Have you ever had to run for your life? I have — a couple of times.

I attend a spin class every Thursday morning at our local Y. Although the class isn’t explicitly designed for people with Parkinson’s disease, I find it remarkable how good I feel for hours after the class.

I didn’t start attending spin classes until a few years after my Parkinson’s disease diagnosis in 2015. In fact, I hadn’t really gotten on a bike in years, which is interesting considering my husband, John, and I spent the first year of our marriage cycling around the world.

When John and I embarked on our trip, we received lots of advice. One of the most memorable pieces of wisdom was to avoid dogs and monkeys. Dogs and monkeys were the animals most likely to bite us, and then we’d have to deal with rabies, which we were told meant needles in the stomach, which terrified me.

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So, there we were in Bali, cycling uphill through the monkey forest.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see monkeys slowly walking to the road. They were long-tailed macaques, which can weigh up to 18 pounds. They weren’t huge, but they seemed enormous, especially when they started running right at us with bared teeth.

John left me in his dust.

Did I mention we were going uphill and that our bikes had heavy packs?

The monkeys went for the low-hanging fruit. They ganged up and ran at me with murder in their eyes! So I did what anybody with a set of lungs would do: I screamed bloody murder and poured on the steam! Nobody was going to stick a needle in my stomach.

A few months later, we were in Turkey. The road was long and flat, and we had a tailwind. We were zooming along at full speed, and I was getting tired.

“Let’s slow down,” I suggested. “Sure,” John replied. No sooner were the words out of his mouth than we saw two massive dogs run down a driveway toward us. They were barking and looked terrifying. Slowing down was not in the cards for us at that moment. We had to speed up, as those hellhounds chased us for the next 20 minutes.

John kept looking over his shoulder at them and saying, “They’re gaining on you!”

I pumped my legs like never before because I felt like my life depended on it.

This morning, we did hill training and sprints as usual in spin class, and I felt it. I wanted to slow down and not push so hard. Then I remembered running from monkeys and dogs in those naive days before Parkinson’s had hopped on my back, and thought, “I’ve done this before, and I can do it now.”

I’m not suggesting that I can outrun the disease, but I am hoping it will take a while to catch me.

Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


Ian McKerral avatar

Ian McKerral

Thanks for uplifting story. I was also diagnosed in 2015 aged 54 and believe in the power of exercise to slow progression.

jeryn byrne avatar

jeryn byrne

Bravo! I too can testify to the power of exercise. Before Dx at 68 I was getting very stiff and the last thing I wanted to do was exercise.
Post Dx I was diligent doing my homework to understand PD and learn how battle this “monkey” on my back. I’m making lemonaide!; doing what I can to remain strong & active. Exercise, exercise & more exercise is the closest thing we have to a cure. I feel better than I have since well before my diagnosis. PD may have been a gift in disguise! Soldier on fellow Parkies!

Marilyn Gerfen avatar

Marilyn Gerfen

My husband has PD and we exercise at least 3 times a week and he does boxing classes which helps too thank you for your story

Linda Andrews avatar

Linda Andrews

Love this story about evading dogs and monkeys. Not only exercise, but also your sense of humor will make the Parkinson’s path easier for you.
Thanks for sharing.

David Green avatar

David Green

I also am an exercise believer. (Diagnosed in 2012 and coping fairly well.) I’ve biked and hiked in Bali, and, yes the monkeys can be unnerving. I aim for three hours a week of moderate to intense workouts. I mix it up between jogging, walking with a pack, stationary bike, rowing machine, or the PD Fit online classes. There is always something I can do.

Julie Bagley avatar

Julie Bagley

Thanks for your story! I also have a strong commitment to exercise as a gift I give myself to slow the growth of Parkinson’s.
I hike , x country ski, bike(I have a recumbent trike)or on bad weather days I row or spin inside.
Being outside moving in nature makes both my physical body and my mental outlook feel energized,
Vigorous outdoor exercise fills me with hope each day!

Alejandro Mayorga avatar

Alejandro Mayorga


Candy Brasel avatar

Candy Brasel

I was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2019 and I just had my 75th Birthday. 3 years ago I joined a Pedaling for Parkinson's class at the "Y" while in Florida for 2 months. When I returned Home which is Grove, OK I continued to. cycle, not spinning. I've been cycling or spinning now for 3 years and I love it. I started a Parkinson's Support Group at the Grand Lake Family YMCA 2 years ago and we have added LOUD CROWD & PWRMoves this past year. We just ordered some spinning bikes and presently having an instructor training for Pedaling for Parkinson's Class. I'm very excited about this. I enjoyed spinning so much and like you I find it exhilarating
and have no movement problems if I spin regularly. I spin two days a week, take cardio classes 3 days a week, Tai Chi 1 day a week and Play golf 1 or two days week. These are all my activities and I shuffle them around so I can do something each day. I believe exercise helps with the progression of Parkinson's. The Levodopa/Carbidopa has been helpful with tremors but I still have major problems with Gastroparesis. Sounds like a lot but I work an hour in everyday. I so scared of losing my mobility.

Beth McTigue avatar

Beth McTigue

Your story is both delightful to read and inspiring to me as a person with PD. I am getting ready to take a spin on my stationary bicycle and will give it my all. You’ve reminded me of the need to push harder. Thank you.

Mary Lott avatar

Mary Lott

I absolutely hate monkeys. Those things are mean! I have decided to forgo a visit to the clove forest in Bali precisely because the monkeys live there, too.

But I’m writing today to let you know the shots for rabies are no longer into the stomach. Because my family was going into a wilderness area in 1993, we all became vaccinated prior to any bites. This was a series of three shots in the arm. It doesn’t mean we won’t need further treatment should we be bitten by a rabid animal, but it does buy us a bit more time. Shots in the stomach! That thought just gives me the willies!


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