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Accommodating Parkinson's Disease: Exercise

Article on Parkinson's. January 22, 2018

In my last post, I made two points about being diagnosed with a serious disease like Parkinson's: the diagnosis can be shattering and dealing with the disease as a life problem to be accommodated is a key to living well with it.

I also noted that experts are united in one theme: your long-term prospects will improve with good lifestyle habits. And the big three are exercise, diet, and sleep. But for many of us who don't go to the gym and perhaps eat too much of the things we shouldn't, these are radical lifestyle changes. Which means they won't get done. And they don't have to. Accommodating to the disease means tweaking our habits rather than uprooting our lives in wholesale changes.

Let's begin with what, for many of us is the biggie: exercise.

When people think of exercise, the image that usually comes to mind is the gym and its collection of machines with weights and pulleys and toned men and women who seem at home with effort and sweat and bench pressing twice their body weight. If that's not your world, it can be intimidating. Scary. And easy to find excuses to avoid.

Of course, if you're a regular at the gym or the community fitness center, go for it. You're already there. But what about the rest of us? Here are some tips.

Exercise doesn't have to be artificial: something that depends upon equipment that wouldn't look out of place in a medieval torture chamber. Exercise is nothing more than motion.

So move. When you drive to the mall, park farthest away from the entrance. The walk will do you good and you won't have to struggle to find a parking spot. Walking back with your bags of purchases is a form of weight lifting, except with things you value. Is it raining? Carry an umbrella or wear raingear.

Do you live in a condo? Take the elevator to a couple of floors below yours, then walk up. Next, day, ride a couple of floors above and walk down. Then increase it to three floors. Don't live in a condo? Use the stairs when you go to an appointment.

Is there a pleasant walk near your home? A park? Perhaps a playground? Then go for a walk. Do you have a dog or a friend with a dog? Go walking with your dog or with your friends. This is not hard: you don't walk a dog, you stroll it.

What do you enjoy that involves movement? Do you garden? Woodwork? Hike? Houseclean? Good. Do a little more of it. Not a gargantuan leap, just a few minutes more each day.

The point to exercise is not to enter a Miss/Mrs./Ms./Mr. Universe contest. It's to keep your body moving so it remembers how and so that it's a little more capable each day. And so that it becomes an ally in your struggle with Parkinson's instead of the enemy.