Is vigorous exercise a miracle for Parkinson’s?

  • Lee Evslin, MD

Two years before my mother died, she asked me to take her to the pool in her assisted living center. She had been battling Parkinson’s for 18 years and was not able to move well.

When we got to the pool, I noticed that the lifeguard was looking at her with some apprehension. I asked her why he looked so nervous. She replied that the last time she had come to swim, she sank to the bottom and had to be saved. She said that the near drowning was not her first.

She went on to say they had actually banned her from the pool but she hoped they would let her swim with me present. I grudgingly accepted the role I was given and they let her swim again. It was the last time she used the pool. This column is an apology to her.

Parkinson’s disease, as too many of us know, is characterized by a slow, shuffling, stooped over gait sometimes accompanied by tremors and the gradual progression of disability.

Several years ago, I read a fascinating account of a man who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 10 years previously. He had almost completely reversed his symptoms. He stated that he done this by a vigorous exercise program. His reversal was so dramatic that he was accused of faking his original Parkinson’s diagnosis. His story was written up in a book by Norman Doidges, MD entitled, “The Brain’s Way of Healing.”

Because this was just one man’s story, it did not meet the criteria of proving that there was now a miracle cure for Parkinson’s. But there is now increasing evidence that he was on to something very important.

A doctor at the Cleveland Clinic had another interesting story. He took a patient with Parkinson’s on a tandem bicycle and noticed that her symptoms were dramatically better after the ride. The improvement was temporary but appeared quite real.

Since then the Cleveland Clinic has done a study showing improvement with stationary bicycle use for patients with Parkinson’s. There is also a YouTube video that went viral. It showed a man with Parkinson’s disease that is so severe that he can barely walk. He then gets on a bicycle. He rides it almost normally before he gets off and starts to shuffle again.

Last week, the New York Times reported on a study just published this month. This study provides even more evidence that vigorous exercise can have a dramatic impact on the progression of Parkinson’s.

The study enlisted patients from multiple universities. The patients were divided into three groups. One group had no change in their exercise routine (meaning very little exercise), one group did moderate exercise on a treadmill and the third group did vigorous exercise, also on a treadmill. They exercised for one half hour 3-4 times per week. The study followed them for six months.

The results showed the expected progression of Parkinson’s disease in the first two groups and virtually NO progression of disease in those that had been in the vigorous program. All of these patients were in the very early stages of Parkinson’s. They were not yet on medication and they were only followed for six months. Hopefully, there will now be many more studies looking at longer periods of time and at different stages in the disease.

Fortunately though, even before this study came out, the word has been spreading that vigorous exercise may dramatically decrease Parkinson’s symptoms. Dance, boxing routines, tai chi like exercises and even Xbox programs are being used increasingly by those who carry this diagnosis and increasingly their stories are of positive results.

It seems that it is important that the exercise be safe and vigorous. It has been proposed that large motions appear to be important. An example of this would be large steps and big arm swings when walking. These large motions are the opposite of how one with Parkinson’s might walk.

Nobody is quite sure why exercise seems to make such a difference. Theories have ranged from increased blood flow to the brain to the possibility that exercise is training another part of the brain to do what the usual part of the brain can no longer do.

If I had Parkinson’s, I would not wait though for further studies or proof of how it works. I would find safe ways to be very active.

My mother valiantly battled Parkinson’s for 20 years before she died. She loved to exercise but after her Parkinson’s became more severe she fell and broke her hip and as mentioned above, several times she had near drownings.

As concerned children, we pushed her hard to use her wheelchair and to stop swimming. She listened to us, perhaps because three of her children were in the medical field. She listened to us despite the fact that she was desperate to exercise.

Mom, we were wrong and your instincts were right. We should have found a way for you to safely exercise vigorously and often. I am sorry and I hope you can hear me.

•••

Lee Evslin, MD is a retired primary care physician. He was former CEO of Kauai Medical Group and Wilcox Hospital. His columns cover recent research on health issues. The information presented here should not be taken as medical advice but only as a sharing of information.

9 Comments
  1. Charlie Chimknee January 10, 2018 6:40 am Reply

    Dr. Evslin, mahalo Nui loa for this information, this is very important advice.

    To add to what you are saying, my Mother always said:
    “Life = Motion…Proof = All Dead Things Don’t Move”.

    Again Mahalo,

    Charles


  2. Sorina January 13, 2018 3:08 pm Reply

    Around age 60 I noticed that my handwriting was getting smaller and I was writing faster. I also noticed a small tremor in my right hand. The doctor went over my different symptoms and he suspected I’d either had a small stroke or the beginnings of Parkinson ‘s disease. After finding a neurologist and some testing I was diagnosed with the beginning stages of Parkinson’s disease. That was 4 years ago. I take Sinimet four times a day to control my symptoms, which include falling, imbalance, gait problems, swallowing difficulties, and slurring of speech,December 2017 our family doctor started me on Mbeki Herbal Clinic Parkinson’s Disease Herbal mixture, 5 weeks into treatment I improved dramatically. At the end of the full treatment course, the disease is totally under control. No case of dementia, hallucination, weakness, muscle pain or tremors.

    Visit Mbeki Herbal Clinic official website w ww.mbekiherbalclinic .com. I am strong again and able to go about daily activities.‌ This Herbal Formula is Incredible!!


  3. Mari Terrance February 2, 2018 5:05 pm Reply

    Around age 60 I noticed that my handwriting was getting smaller and I was writing faster. I also noticed a small tremor in my right hand. The doctor went over my different symptoms and he suspected I’d either had a small stroke or the beginnings of Parkinson ‘s disease. After finding a neurologist and some testing I was diagnosed with the beginning stages of Parkinson’s disease. That was 4 years ago. I take Sinimet four times a day to control my symptoms, which include falling, imbalance, gait problems, swallowing difficulties, and slurring of speech,December 2017 our family doctor started me on Green House Herbal Clinic Parkinson’s Disease Herbal mixture, 5 weeks into treatment I improved dramatically. At the end of the full treatment course, the disease is totally under control. No case of dementia, hallucination, weakness, muscle pain or tremors. Visit Green House Herbal Clinic official website www. greenhouseherbalclinic .com. I am strong again and able to go about daily activities.‌ This Herbal Formula is Incredible!!


  4. Evelyn Ray March 12, 2018 10:29 am Reply

    In April last year, i started on natural parkinsons disease herbal treatments from RICH HERBS FOUNDATION, i am happy to report this PD herbal treatment worked very effectively. My parkinson is totally under control, i had a total decline in symptoms, the tremors, shaking, stiffness, congnition and speech problems stopped. Visit rich herbs foundation official web page ww w.richherbsfoundation .com. My family are amazed at the change and rapid improvement.


  5. Levi Jasper March 27, 2018 12:53 am Reply

    My wife was diagnosed at age 64 with Parkinson’s disease. she was put on Senemet for 6 months and then Siferol was introduced and replaced the Senemet. During this time span she was also diagnosed with dementia. she started having hallucinations, lost touch with reality. Suspecting it was the medication I took her off the Siferol (with the doctor’s knowledge) whcih i started using a natural herbal products. she has improved dramatically.
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  6. Shorai Erikson April 10, 2018 4:29 am Reply

    Parkinson’s symptoms first appeared when I was 68. I noticed a vibration in right foot and then right hand. After about 18 months a shake and/or tremor. Twelve months later, shaking. My neurologist. Started me on entacapone,levodopa, carbidopa, and pramipexole to reduce symptoms and slow down progression but I could not tolerate them for long due to severe side effects. I decided to adopt a more natural approach and started on Parkinson’s Disease Herbal formula from Green House Herbal Clinic, the PD natural formula immensely helped my condition, i had a total recovery from Parkinson’s disease with this natural herbal formula treatment. Visit Green House Herbal Clinic official web site ww w. greenhouseherbalclinic. Weebly. com. I feel alive again! The tremors, Shaking, Joint Stiffness and other symptoms has subsided.  I am very pleased with this treatment. I feel very well now and exercise regularly, sometimes i totally forget i ever had Parkinson’s, My family are amazed at the change and rapid recovery from PD. since the procedure I enjoy walking the dog for my daily exercise. DON’T GIVE UP HOPE!!!


  7. Josef Martindale April 16, 2018 12:25 am Reply

    I am a 49-year-old man. My Parkinson’s disease appeared at the age of 47. My symptoms, at the beginning, were fine tremors and rigidity with joint stiffness. My neurologist prescribed entacapone with levodopa, carbidopa, and pramipexole. I opted not to go on prescription medicines but decided on using herbs instead, October 18, 2017 after being on the herbs you recommended, i had a total recovery from Parkinson’s disease with this natural herbal formula treatment. The tremors, Shaking, Joint Stiffness has subsided. When I stumbled upon you guys, it was just pure instinct. And from that day on it has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. The caring that goes into explaining what herbs work for whatever ails me is astounding. In today’s world where so many are after a quick buck, selling without care, The Herbal Garden’s staffs amplifies the difference. I’m a believer in karma, and for generations to come, this is a herbal store that will be leaving it’s footprint in this world. Visit ThE HERBAL GARDENS official web site www. theherbalgardens. org A world of thanks to The Herbal Gardens!”


  8. mark April 29, 2018 10:12 am Reply

    I am so sorry about your mother, it sounds like she was and is loved very much. It also sounds like you and your siblings took care of her. In my opinion there is a compelling need for bodily motion to escape the indescribable torment that PD can cause especially with your muscles. There also comes a point where “vigorous” exercise can be a bad thing. Thanks for caring !


  9. Jose Ava May 3, 2018 9:40 pm Reply

    My symptoms started at the age of 46. My fingers on my left hand were stiff and were difficult to move. People noticed that my walk was not normal. I was often asked did I hurt. I noticed nothing different about my walk. It was difficult getting up from` a chair and getting out of a car. I was diagnosed a year later and i have to find a better solution and was introduced to try the help of herbal formula. I am now 59 tho and am fully cured from Parkinson’s disease.
    contact Total Cure Herbal Foundation on: Totalcureherbalfoundation@ gmailcom i had to use the remedies for 15 weeks usage which really help on my condition.
    Ava


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