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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Parkinson's Disease Research: Exercise

I went to three Parkinson's Disease seminars recently and the common theme was exercise is good for people with Parkinson's Disease. I can't say this was news to me, but I did learn the science behind it. 

YumaBev and Anna from NPF 
I heard some humorous quotes like "Would you rather exercise one hour a day or be dead twenty-four?" and "Exercise can slow down the escalator to Parkinson's hell". Both of these are paraphrased because I've lost my short term memory (if you find it, please return it). 

So, here's the scoop. People are lazy and people with Parkinson's Disease are worse. We can blame the laziness on the loss of dopamine, which not only helps control movement but is also one of the "feel good" chemicals in our brain. And since doing the things we used to do no longer "feels good", we Parkies tend to get lazier. 

Researchers know this, so they gave rats, which are also lazy, Parkinson's Disease symptoms by injecting them with MPTP or something similar.  They then measured the movement abilities of the Parkie rats and compared them to non-Parkie rats. They took brain scans of both as well, and carefully documented the results. 

They then split the Parkie and non-Parkie rats into two groups: One group was allowed to do as they wished and the other group was forced to exercise by placing them on treadmills. It seems cruel to force them to walk or run, but I guess that's why they use rats and not cute little puppies or kitties, most of us don't feel sorry for rats.

The results were exciting. The Parkie rats who were forced to exercise showed vast improvements over the Parkie rats who did nothing. The difference was noted not only in their movement ability, but changes were visible in the brain scans as well. The forced exercise didn't show much change in the non-Parkie rats (except maybe they were skinnier). 

This proves that exercise is a very good thing, but you can't force people with Parkinson's Disease to walk on treadmills, so we need to be motivated. Those quotes I mentioned above motivated me. I usually walk every morning, but now I have added walking on a treadmill to my daily routine and I feel better already. Here is my first day and third day video (and I'm much prettier than a rat).

Did you see the difference? 

So, my Parkie friends, don't be lazy rats, get up and exercise (and if you have a treadmill, use it).

You can find all my videos on my YouTube channel:
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Thank you for reading this story, I hope you enjoyed it. This is just one of a hundred stories in my book, Parkinson's Humor - Funny Stories about My Life with Parkinson's Disease. Please consider purchasing a copy from or your favorite online book seller. Thank you and have a Happy Parkie Day!


  1. Rats! Does that mean even on days like today, when I feel crappy, I should still exercise?

    Just wondering,
    Robyn Michele Levy
    The one-breasted Jewish Parkinson Princess

  2. I can agree the motivation is hard but the benefit will be worth the effort I hope.

    Before PD I used exercise a lot. Now I do it but it is so much harder to motivate consistently.


  3. it's people like you that inspire our doctors, patients and supporters. We love your spirit!
    Providence Found via Twitter

  4. When I asked MrP's consultant 10yrs ago if there was anything he could do to help him self- like exercise he replied No. Incredible
    ParkyWife via Twitter

  5. I really prefer having a treadmill exercise to maintain fitness.

  6. "Would you rather exercise one hour a day or be dead twenty-four?" is not always a clear choice.

  7. What an amazing difference! ! I do lots of exercise and I swear it helps me although there are still days I struggle to either motivate myself or generally struggle with the exercise itself but this confirms to me that what I'm doing is securing myself a longer better healthier future . . No I don't know 100% what awaits me but if I'm the strongest and fittest I can be I'm in the best place to fight it. Thanks for this post and your YouTube video really inspiring and good luck with your continued efforts! Heidi