Exercise is the Best Medicine

This web site is a work in progress. Eventually, I hope the Parkinson FIT website will become a resource and community dedicated to exercise, fitness and wellness for people with Parkinson’s Disease.

Today, it is mostly a blog, collecting information of interest to the website’s founder. Maintaining this website helps keep me inspired to fight Parkinson’s, and hopefully it can help inspire others.

Like many of you, ever since I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, I’ve spent countless hours reviewing studies and research. There are some great ideas and great theories out there, and I remain hopeful that a cure can be found.

But if you study through the available research, especially the research involving humans, one trend is clear: For Parkinson’s Disease, Exercise is the Best Medicine. And it is available today, without a prescription.

I believe that vigorous exercise can help with Parkinson’s symptoms, and will help me live more years with an active lifestyle. There is growing evidence that exercise can affect more than just the symptoms, but that it can also slow down or halt the progression of PD.

Optimistic Best Case Scenario: Exercise promotes BDNF (Brain-derived neurotrophic factor) and neurogenesis creates new neurons in the PD effected regions. Or exercise encourages neuroplasticity and the brain creates new pathways to recover some lost functionality.

Reasonable Moderate Case Scenario: Exercise is neuroprotective and extends the life of remaining dopamine producing cells in the substantia nigra. Studies show an increase in GDNF (glial-derived neurotrophic factor), which reduces the vulnerability of remaining dopamine neurons to damage.

Pessimistic Worst Case Scenario: Exercise strengthens the muscles that Parkinson’s Disease weakens, preserving your ability to lead an active lifestyle. Exercise can strengthen balance and aid in balance recovery, preventing falls.

I created this website to share what I’ve learned and what I am learning, and to learn and share information and community with others.

As for this website, there are 4 (soon to be 5) main areas of the website:

  1. Exercise Videos & Tips – Coming Soon
  2. News – This section collects the latest news stories and research articles about Parkinson’s Disease, with a particular focus on exercise and fitness (especially boxing).
  3. PD Website Directory – This section is a database of links to other websites with useful information about Parkinson’s Disease.
  4. Blog – This section contains information and commentary relevant to Parkinson’s Disease fitness and exercise. These articles are available via the Home page. There is also a Humor subsection, because other than exercise, laughter is the best medicine.
  5. Forums/Community – This is a public section that is available to discuss topics of interest among people with Parkinson’s and caregivers.

Parkinson FIT is a work in progress that will improve over time with your feedback and participation.

About the Website Founder(s)

Brett

Like many of you, ever since I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, I’ve spent countless hours reviewing studies and research. There are some great ideas and great theories out there, and I remain hopeful that a cure can be found.

But if you study through the available research, especially the research involving humans, one trend is clear: For Parkinson’s Disease, Exercise is the Best Medicine. And it is available today, without a prescription.

The National Parkinson Foundation sums it up best with this statement:

Exercise is an important part of healthy living for everyone. However, for people with PD exercise is not only healthy, but a vital component to maintaining balance, mobility and daily living activities.

 

How Much Should I Exercise for PD?

Nutrition is also important. Lifestyle changes and proper nutrition are needed to support health for exercise and muscle building, and to support brain health.

My PD journey began when I was diagnosed at age 47 in 2014, with relatively minor symptoms, namely a right hand tremor that is most active under stress (and when going through airport security). Actually the journey began a few years before that, when my wife and kids pointed out the tremor while I was eating soup. Or maybe it began a couple years before that with my dragging right foot, or several months of a mysterious sore shoulder.

After my diagnosis, I began an exercise program to be able to better meet the challenges that lie ahead. Initially my goals were focused on building muscles to fight PD weakening, and losing the excess weight (50 pounds) that was going to be harder to carry around with Parkinson’s. As I quickly met my most optimistic goals (with the help of my personal trainer, Chad Cannon at CannonFit), my exercise program became more vigorous. I became focused on adding strength, especially on my weakened right side.

My exercise program reached a new level when I met John Juarez at RipTide MMA, and began participating in his 4 day per week Kickboxing for Parkinson’s class, now an affiliate of Rock Steady Boxing. We’re all at different levels of PD and overall fitness in the class, but we’re fighting the same enemy. I was in decent shape when I started at RipTide, but I had plateaued. John challenged me, and the rest of the class, to push ourselves.

Before I knew it, I was working out with Chad 3 days a week, RipTide 4 days a week, often with one workout in the morning and another in the afternoon. I’ve added home workout sessions and now also run several days a week.

I believe that vigorous exercise can help with Parkinson’s symptoms, and will help me live more years with an active lifestyle. There is growing evidence that exercise can affect more than just the symptoms, but that it can also slow down or halt the progression of PD.

Optimistic Best Case Scenario: Exercise promotes BDNF (Brain-derived neurotrophic factor) and neurogenesis creates new neurons in the PD effected regions. Or exercise encourages neuroplasticity and the brain creates new pathways to recover some lost functionality.

Reasonable Moderate Case Scenario: Exercise is neuroprotective and extends the life of remaining dopamine producing cells in the substantia nigra. Studies show an increase in GDNF (glial-derived neurotrophic factor), which reduces the vulnerability of remaining dopamine neurons to damage.

Pessimistic Worst Case Scenario: Exercise strengthens the muscles that Parkinson’s Disease weakens, preserving your ability to lead an active lifestyle. Exercise can strengthen balance and aid in balance recovery, preventing falls.

I created this website to share what I’ve learned and what I am learning, and to learn and share information and community with others.

One of my doctors encouraged me to find ways to talk to others with PD about the importance of exercise. She remarked about how unusual my reaction to the PD diagnosis was. She said that while my symptoms hadn’t really changed (which is good news), she could see that I was getting stronger…she particularly noticed my calf muscles (not to brag, but my calves are a frequent topic of conversation when I visit a neurologist’s office 🙂 ). And though she hadn’t known me for long, she gathered that since my PD diagnosis, I had managed to get in the best physical shape of my life.

So here we are. I’m not a doctor. I’m definitely not a fitness expert. I’m just a person with Parkinson’s Disease.

Disclaimer: Always consult a doctor before beginning an exercise program or nutritional protocol. This website does not offer medical advice, it simply shares the experiences of people with Parkinson’s Disease.

As this website develops, I plan on working with others to add more useful links and content, including exercise videos, and interviews from people who have inspired, and continue to inspire me.

But I’m more excited about what more we can learn from each other. Whether you’re a person with Parkinson’s, a caregiver, doctor, nurse, researcher, student, or a concerned friend or relative, we have much to learn from each other, so I hope you’ll visit regularly and share your thoughts in our community forums.

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