Blogging with Parkinson's

A personal perspective on Young Onset Parkinson's

The Beginnings of an Exercise Plan

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So, anyway. Exercise. I’ve just spent a fair bit of sitting down time telling you why I don’t like exercise (yup, that’s right – I was decidedly not doing any exercise). Why must I do it?

  • Flexibility: Parkinson’s patients often lose flexibility through lack of use. In particular, I’m told that I should be aware of the flexibility in my back; I should maintain the ability to twist and bend my torso.
  • Core Strength: This is strength in the torso. Building up core strength improves stability and helps counteract the muscular rigidity that Parkinson’s can induce. I’m not sure if the shoulders are necessarily included within the ‘core’ area, but my physiotherapist encouraged me to work my shoulders to keep my arms functioning.
  • Aerobic or Cardiovascular Exercise: ‘Big’ exercise that improves the strength of the heart and lungs. This sort of exercise is activity involving the large muscles, such as the legs, and has lots of health benefits such as lowering blood pressure. It also burns lots of calories. And, it turns out, it helps prevent further loss of dopamine functionality in the brain, as my physiotherapist told me recently.
    (See also my post on a report of the research.)

My physiotherapist suggested a range of aerobic exercises, including using a trampette, skipping, dancing, swimming and cycling. Running would be included, too, but I can’t recall if we discussed it. Certainly, on the occasions that I have tried running for fitness purposes in the past I have found it very hard on my lower legs (not to mention very tedious).

The problem, of course, is fitting these things in with my lifestyle. I may not be working at the moment, but my day is restricted by the necessity of taking children to school and collecting them, and by a number of other commitments (all of which come before housework, naturally, but that still – alas – needs doing, too). My village location means that swimming involves a drive of around 10 miles on top of the usual faffing around. I have reservations about cycling purely for exercise, too – although these are complicated and I will probably cover them in a later post.

I’ve bought myself a trampette (I was very pleased to find one in a sale with free postage) and an adult sized skipping rope. I’m already enrolled on a yoga course – in the village, which is brilliant both for its location and because I rather enjoy it. I’m not, however, very good at doing yoga out of the class.

The trampette is quite fun – good for exhausting myself quickly. Of course, when the kids are around, I don’t get much of a chance to use it, because if it’s out, they want to bounce on it! Skipping is actually quite tricky. I never was much good at it. Of course, it has to be done outside, because our ceilings aren’t very high. I haven’t practised much, but today I managed three whole consecutive skips before fumbling it. It might help now that I’ve adjusted the rope length:

To find the optimal length for a skipping rope:

Stand on the centre of the rope and raise the handles until the rope is tight. The handles should be level with the centre of your chest.

I’ve also tried to make the trips to and fro school more fitness friendly. Where possible, I try to ensure that I’m not carrying anything extra so that I can run part of the way when it’s just me, no kids. I’ve even dug my (cheap, old) running shoes out. The kids have got scooters and they are very good about carrying bags on the handlebars, so they whizz off on their scooters and I run to catch up. Some days, I’m able to leave both scooters in the preschool buggy park, so I can run home unencumbered. I’m not up to running all the way yet. It’s not far, mind. Maybe I can work up to it.

I’m also managing to do at least 3 x 10 lifts a day with my hand weights, more if I get the chance. I like these. They don’t take up much space (neither to store nor to practise) and they don’t take up much time. I can also use the ‘rest’ period between each set of 3 lifts to read a few paragraphs of my current book… (maybe I overdo the rest bit. Sometimes I need to read a bit more than a few paragraphs). It also feels like they are doing something. I’m most concerned, right now, about my arms, and the lifting is meant to work my shoulders; the benefits should effectively spread downwards. Maybe it won’t improve the dexterity of my fingers, but hopefully it’ll help that weak wrist. I gather that keeping my shoulders strong helps me to combat that rigidity issue.

I really ought to work at the exercises the physiotherapist gave me more. She gave me loads, which I found a bit confusing. The weights were on the first page – the most advanced of a series, and I was pleased to be able to do them, and, indeed, to graduate up to 3 x 15 repetitions of the first weight (1kg) and then on to 3 x 10 of the next weight (1.5kg). The other stuff she gave me includes a lot of bends and twists. Some of it is also covered by yoga.

I’ll write more about yoga another time.

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