A 10+ Year Experience with Parkinson’s Disease and Intense Exercise – Neil Sligar

Neil Sligar’s story is worth checking out. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1998, he began a vigorous exercise program in 2000. He wrote about his experience after 10+ years.

There are at least 3 articles and 2 interviews worth viewing.

A write-up after 8 years describes his approach:
http://katekelsall.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/09/lifting-the-wei.html

Setting small targets has been critical to my improved performances. Focus on tiny gains in the near future rather than big goals in the long term. You can surprise yourself how far you reach.

To mark 10 years of intense exercise, he wrote a follow-up article at http://katekelsall.typepad.com/my_weblog/2010/01/parkinsons-disease-and-intense-exercise-neil-sligars-10-year-experience.html

Here are a few key quotes for his lessons learned:

What have I learned?

Firstly, don’t accept the limitations others may predict, assume, or recommend because of Parkinson’s disease. I don’t, and won’t, accept that my physical capacity is any less than that of anyone else. Parkinson’s disease has been an inconvenience, not an obstacle, for strenuous, physical activity…

The harder I work, the better I later feel. By 2004, I’d noticed that after a solid aerobic workout, my tremor and rigidity subsided and sleep came more easily. For around an hour following a rigorous bike session, tremor sometimes increased, but then declined and calmness prevailed…

When my stamina falters, the appropriate response is to amend my exercise regime so as to place more emphasis on endurance…

Lifting heavy weights has not aggravated my rigidity despite warnings to the contrary on Parkinson’s websites…

My “explosive” strength, (known as “power”), is significantly diminished by Parkinson’s. An example of power is the action of an Olympic weightlifter when snapping the bar to his shoulders.

“Bradykinesia”, slowness of movement, affects me in activities of daily living. Yet when working out hard on the bike or rower I can move as quickly as most. I compete reasonably successfully with my gym peers in bike and indoor rowing challenges. This is an oddity about Parkinson’s. Its hindrances are less apparent at higher levels of effort. Push myself, and Bradykinesia disappears.

Intensity is relative to the individual’s capability. Standing and sitting ten times would be intensive for a person with advanced Parkinson’s. Intensity means “giving it almost all you’ve got.”

There are many ways to exercise intensely…

Improved physical performance becomes more difficult over time. Drafting exercise programs becomes more challenging.

Periods of unexplained performance decline are not unusual. Refresh my programs, and then persist. Performances have, so far, resumed for the better.

The follow-up after 13 years is also interesting … The Label “Exercise for Parkinson’s” May Do More Harm Than Good …

I rarely publicize my athleticism with Parkinson’s, fearful that the general public may think the condition less nasty than it is.

My few encounters with “exercise for Parkinson’s” have left me feeling patronised by “experts” who seem reluctant to accept that, despite the condition, I’m faster and stronger than most men of my age. The explanation for my capability is very simple. I train hard and assume that all things are possible until proven otherwise. Others with PD run marathons or cycle long distances or climb Mount Kilimanjaro or lift heavy weights.

…why is it that we should be corralled together for “Exercise for Parkinson’s”?

Why not begin with the assumption that we are not handicapped until evidence is found to the contrary? Then treat that specific shortcoming rather than consign someone labelled “Parkinson’s” to a group for those of lower physical capacity?

Read the whole piece at http://katekelsall.typepad.com/my_weblog/2012/12/the-label-exercise-for-parkinsobs-may-do-more-harm-than-good.html

Valid thoughts…as I approach my second year of Parkinson’s Disease and Intense Exercise…I am seeing many physical improvements…but the best new experience was joining a Kickboxing for Parkinson’s class. We exercise together as a group, but our instructor finds ways to vary activity to push us all to our individual limits…I’m 10-20 years younger than most of the class, so I need a little extra challenge. Each time, I leave a big puddle of sweat behind. And seeing the others making small progress helps inspire me to keep pushing forward, as I hope that I inspire them.

I do agree with Neil that it is important not to self-limit yourself because of Parkinson’s. But I also believe that many people with Parkinson’s do not exercise enough, and it is important to educate and motivate them. As Neil said:

Intensity is relative to the individual’s capability. Standing and sitting ten times would be intensive for a person with advanced Parkinson’s. Intensity means “giving it almost all you’ve got.”

Here are a couple video interviews with Neil:

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