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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Parkinson's Disease: Marching to a Different Beat

In the summer before I started Junior High school, I decided to play clarinet. Why? Because of Barbie. Barbie was my best friend and lived next door. She was a year older and had everything this twelve year old did not. She was pretty, with thick wavy hair and straight teeth. And while I was still wearing clothing sized for first graders, she wore teen size clothes and needed a bra . Barbie played clarinet, so I wanted to play one, too.

The school held a band camp. The first thing they taught us was how to march, not how to play anything, just how to march. We had to take two steps for each yard line on a football field. I marked lines on my driveway with chalk and practiced until I could step off exactly eighteen inches, even with my eyes closed. I never was a good clarinet player, but I was an excellent marcher. For years, I could accurately step off how many yards something was, until Parkinson's Disease affected the way I walked and stole my built in yardstick.

In my ongoing effort to learn how to undo what Parkinson's has done to me, I attended a Music Therapy program at the Parkinson's Conference in Irvine, CA, a couple weeks ago. The speaker stated that music could be used to improve your gait and help your brain re-learn how to walk normally. I was already doing Treadmill exercises recommended by another speaker at the same Conference, so I decided to add some music. I picked out some favorite tunes, including some I used to play in my school band days (Louie Louie and Tequila) and concentrated on walking to the beat. I noticed a big difference right away. My gait evened out and my arms began to swing like normal, plus it was fun thinking about those teenage years. 

I actually enjoy Marching on my treadmill and the improvement in walking seems to be lasting all day. Maybe I'll get my built in ruler back. (Honey, where's the chalk?) 
Bev playing clarinet
Hmm, I wonder what ever happened to that old clarinet?

This is video of me walking on treadmill, and then adding music. Click on > below. 

So, my Parkies friends, put on some Marching music and get walking to a different beat.

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 Amazon or your favorite online book seller. Thank you and have a Happy Parkie Day!


  1. looks like you have something there bev...keep it up...ive been waslking my dogs m-f and i've noticed a much better gait also...btw i put a new gate in my back

  2. Using the same logic, my daughter hypothesized for a high school science fair study that rhythm would improve non motor symptoms of pd. Unfortunately she could not test it because the state project review board was so afraid test subjects with pd would fall, that the school or ultimately the state would be sued. Rhythm helps motor symptoms but we still haven't tested if it helps cognitive and other non motor symptoms. Perhaps to promote clear headed decisions from the review board, people with pd should have shown up and danced!

  3. Before I was diagnosed and before the worst of my troubles started, I used to do mountain hikes and free climb. On the trails up the mountains I would listen to music on my i-pod to help me keep a good and constant pace. It definitely helped and I wish I could go back to those days. If you can still do walks, whether it is on a treadmill or outside, I would definitely say to try it and give it an honest try, I am sure it will help.
    Thanks Bev! Keep truckin'!!