A study on Parkinson’s and exercise affirms I’m on the right track

A columnist finds renewed motivation to keep training for a 5K race

Christine Scheer avatar

by Christine Scheer |

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For the past couple weeks, I’ve had the post-holiday blues. I’ve also been training for a 5K road race in June. Both of these things have left me exhausted. All I can think about is when I’ll be able to take a nap or go to bed, or whether or not it’s time to get up. Ugh.

Last weekend, something shifted and perked me up: I felt hopeful. It happened after reading one of the more optimistic articles I’ve seen about the effects of exercise on Parkinson’s disease. Before I knew it, I was sending texts and emails to friends and family saying that, hopefully, I’d be getting better! I couldn’t contain myself. I was so excited.

A pilot study published in npj Parkinson’s Disease in February had suggested that not only could exercise slow down Parkinson’s progression, it also could potentially reverse some of the damage. All the exercise I’d been doing appeared to indeed be a good use of my time.

While the study was small and included only recently diagnosed people, I thought perhaps the next one might include people like me who were diagnosed several years ago.

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We do what we can

One of the many things that annoys me about this infernal disease is that, according to researchers, damage starts years before the symptoms appear. How are we supposed to contend with years of damage? We can’t, but we can do our best to fight the disease now, starting to slow the progression as soon as we are diagnosed. We still have many years ahead of us, so why not make them the best they can be?

I realize that we’re all different, and I’m lucky that my worst symptom has always been tremor, which apparently is one of the easiest things to target with deep brain stimulation (DBS). Also, I was relatively young — 54 — when I was diagnosed in 2015, and I’ve got a great neurologist who listens to me and supported me through DBS in 2021.

What I’m saying here is this: Do what you can, and don’t give up hope. Try to surround yourself with people who support you and make you feel good. Be grateful and educate yourself about Parkinson’s. Just like running, managing the everyday mess that Parkinson’s dumps on us is a bit of a mind game, and attitude counts.

So here it is, week five of training, and yes, I’m still exhausted. But I have way more motivation now. I have wildly unrealistic expectations of myself, but I don’t care. I have a goal, a plan, and an incentive. Nothing will stop 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.

Comments

Andreas Grueneberg avatar

Andreas Grueneberg

Looking back at my experience with PD it’s obvious that signs were present probably a decade before classic symptoms developed and I was diagnosed an about 2 years ago. I also deal with Epilepsy but has been under control. A always got lots of exercise on my small farm but when I developed more issues we sold the farm and moved to town. We have walking a lot, exercising and doing yoga. Also just finished a 4 month PD therapy program at University, also need to challenge my mind working on Soft Wiring. I am terrified of cognitive decline more than mobility.

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Christine Scheer avatar

Christine Scheer

Hi! Yes, I am terrified of cognitive decline as well. I've been reading a bit about neuroplasticity; it's so interesting, and it gives me hope.

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Jeffrey Cooper/ avatar

Jeffrey Cooper/

Bravo! I too was diagnosed with PD in 2017. My neurologist told me that excercise is the solution. I been doing excercise six days a week, pilloties, boxing Trainor, yoga, massage and I indeed pushed back my symtoms. My smell is back, my hands swing when walking, my toes no longer curl,my hands are rock steady, plus a whole host of other nuances, I have never felt as good as I do now. I am 72 and feel like 50.

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Christine Scheer avatar

Christine Scheer

Wow! That is amazing to hear! I'm thrilled to hear you are feeling so good! I still have a lot of symptoms, but I am feeling so good and strong that they don't bother me too much at all.

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Andy Polis avatar

Andy Polis

I too, believe that exercise can slow the progression of Parkinson’s! I was diagnosed in 2018 and exercise 4 days per week. I go to a gym that is run by exercise physiologists who tailor my workouts to my needs. I do 3 exercise sessions of an hour each, 2 yoga sessions and a boxing session each week. My symptoms are still mild and I have very little tremor! Exercise works!

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Jane Rideout avatar

Jane Rideout

I have found exactly the same as you. I was diagnosed in 2008 aged 52, and was considered quite active. I walked the dogs every day and was a ‘busy person’. At 5 years diagnosed I was getting worse, felt very old, poor balance and had poor flexibility. I started to exercise. I’d never been to a class before, couldn’t stand on one leg safely, couldn’t bend below my knees etc. it changed my life with Parkinson’s. I started gently and then increased the intensity. I now do 6 sessions a week and they include kettlebells, circuits , weights, and yoga. I can transition between one leg balance moves now! I’m 16 years diagnosed now and when my meds are working people often don’t realise I have Parkinson’s. I never imagined that I could feel so much better but I do. And it’s never too late to start exercise.

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Christine Scheer avatar

Christine Scheer

Fantastic!

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Lee Cornell avatar

Lee Cornell

Until Spring 2022, I was a marathon runner and was continuously training - logging 40 to 50 miles/wk. In March 2022, meniscus surgery removed enough cartilage in my knee, I developed arthritis and had to give up running. A mere 8 months later, I developed symptoms, including a mild tremor in one hand, blood pressure decrease, brain fog, memory issues, inability to stay asleep, vocal changes - almost a stutter, and wild dreams. I attributed most of this to aging, but the tremor and BP changes were concerning. I went to a movement disorder neurologist (MDN), that said it could be PD. April 2023, that diagnoses was confirmed. Even with pain, I started running and biking again and by the Fall of 2023, almost all the symptoms have improved with the exception of the tremor. The MDN reclassified my ailment to Dystonic Tremor and not PD. Full disclosure, I also take 2 grams of B-1 daily.
Reading this article on reversing PD due to exercise - I'm thinking I got lucky and that's what is happening. I also know that exercise increase mitochondria function & quantity and may support dopamine normalization.

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Christine Scheer avatar

Christine Scheer

What an interesting story you have! I hope you continue to improve.

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Sandra Jacoby avatar

Sandra Jacoby

Is that 2 grams, or mcg?

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Ranee Johnson avatar

Ranee Johnson

Thanks for the positivity!!! Inspired post!! I’ve been terrified since diagnosis. You gave me hope!!

Ranee

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Christine Scheer avatar

Christine Scheer

Hi! Well, diagnosis is kind of scary! I do try to look at the positive side of things. My attitude is one thing I can control. All my best!

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Mike Krukar avatar

Mike Krukar

When I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 10/2020 we figured it was a challenge but we could deal with it. You really hear lots of tragic stories about the awful course of this disease! Then in 12/2023 my Movement Disorder Specialist gave me an updated diagnosis of Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (P.S.P.). Very daunting with a more severe outlook. But it did force my Medical Team to reevaluate my medication regime, which was changed slightly. Today about 6 month from ‘rediagnosis’ my outlook has significantly changed. My wife has more than ever joined with me in my battle. Making the decision to cast off the victim role I have begun to attack my new condition with lots of exercise. Using 2 free online exercise sites. Now I do about 6 on-line exercise classes per week with lots of Tai Chi, stationary Bike at
least 30 minutes per day and daily walks with my wife. So my more severe diagnosis has really helped me out. Thank you Jesus Christ. Attitude is so critical. We have hope no matter how the PRO’s present things to us. We all have a choice of how we deal with this stuff. Blessings,Mike

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Christine Scheer avatar

Christine Scheer

Hi Mike, Thank you for sharing your story and wonderful outlook on life! All my best.

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Jean Harron avatar

Jean Harron

I was dignosed in 2015 Feb 1 I had buried my husband the month before and wanted to make sure I would not be a burden to my children I quickly got on an excise program and walked at least two miles a day. I am now 84 still going but keep hoping for a cure. Would be will to try new meds.

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William Patterson avatar

William Patterson

I am pleased to learn of so many people bringing so many good experiences with exercise and Parkinson to the attention of others. When I was diagnosed in 2010 I immediately started to learn everything I could about the disease. After reading about successes others that had I extrapolated from their experiences and began riding an exercise bicycle daily peaking at about 100 to 110 RPM (This was achieved after I worked up to it over a period of months.)

You can read more about my experience with Parkinson's by checking out a poster that I presented at the World Parkinson Congress in Kyoto Japan in 2019.

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