Exercise for Parkinson’s

Michael J. Fox talks about Parkinsons

Michael J. Fox talks about Parkinson's

In My Father, My Brother, and Me, a FRONTLINE co-production with ITVS,(aired Feb. 3, 2009), Iverson sets off on a personal journey to understand the disease that has taken such a toll on his family. Along the way, he meets some remarkable people–a leading Parkinson’s researcher whose encounter with “frozen” heroin addicts led to a major breakthrough; a Parkinson’s sufferer given a new lease on life by an experimental brain surgery; and a geneticist who helped identify some of the gene mutations responsible for Parkinson’s and who is now working on drugs to fix them. -BA Haller

This is an exceptionally well made film. As the future unfolds, scientists discover more and more about Parkinson’s. One of the main points I got out of this production was the benefits of exercise. In doing a study with two different chimpanzees, one watching and the other forced to walk on a treadmill, the synthetic version of Parkinson’s was then injected into the chimps. The remarkable thing was, the chimp who was exercising had very minimal changes in his brain scan while the other who had only “watched” was greatly affected by Parkinson’s. Now researchers are trying to figure out why exercise has such a big impact on the brain and Parkinson’s and for those that already suffer from it, how exercise will affect them. Patients are put in harnesses and monitored while on the treadmill. Hopefully this new outlook will lead to big advancements in Parkinson’s research.

Everyone knows that exercise is good for you, but when you have an autoimmune disease, it’s that much more difficult to get the courage and willpower to force yourself to exercise. Pain, stiffness, tremor and immobility can get in the way. The irony here is, research after research shows the importance of exercise. It doesn’t matter if you have Parkinson’s, Fibromyalgia, or Rheumatoid Arthritis, you will have less symptoms if you exercise.

Now here’s where it gets tricky….. How does one exercise if they can’t move, or if they’re in too much pain to make it happen? Not only that, with all autoimmune diseases, over extending yourself will also put you back ten-fold. So how do you learn where to draw the line?

I think with autoimmune diseases, it’s important to take it slow and build yourself up gradually. If you already know that you can walk from point A to B, then make it a little longer. If you know you can lift yourself off the couch, then you know you could probably handle a few knee extensions and take it from there. As the phrase already states, “Use it or loose it!”

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