A recent article in the New York Times concerned the efficacy of exercise for alleviating the symptoms of Parkinson Disease. The article spoke in a somewhat incredulous tone about bicycling in particular as a means of combating the disease. This isn’t news to me. I’m living proof that exercise is beneficial for those who cope with PD.
I was diagnosed nearly ten years ago with PD. In the ensuing years I stuck to and even increased my regular exercise routine. I’ve known for a long time that I feel better and function better in my everyday activities when I work out regularly. I have found that while in the “exercise mode” I function normally. No symptoms for the most part. No tremors or involuntary movements. No slow down during routine movements. And while during my normal routine day I tend to move rather slowly and shuffle when I walk and even resort to using a cane to help me with the rhythm of walking, I find that once I start some physical activity, that shuffle disappears and I can go full speed ahead.
Admittedly I have difficulty walking from house to garage, but once I get there and hop on my bicycle, I’m just another 62 year old riding a bike. I can go for 15 to 20 miles and feel absolutely normal. It’s when I stop and get off the bike that the PD symptoms reappear. In fact the symptoms are generally more pronounced for a short period after exercising until I have relaxed and caught my breath, as it were. And while there seems to be no lasting effect of freedom from symptoms once I finish my exercise routine, while engaged in that physical activity I can function normally.
I am probably in the best physical shape of my life now due to the regular conditioning program I follow which seems ironic. There is no doubt in my mind that physical exercise helps me cope with my version (everyone is different) of Parkinson Disease. It seems to me that a lot more research needs to be done on the effect that exercise has on our brains. And while researchers are huddled in their labs peering at brain scans and studying microscopic tissues, I’ll be out on my bike in the real world giving them something to think about.