Sunday, July 19, 2009

In the Gym with Parkinson's Disease

My PD Exercise Monday through Saturday

I went to my physical therapy center yesterday to workout on the nautilus machines as I do 5 or 6 times a week. As you know, stiffness-rigidity, balance, breathing, depression, gait issues can make exercise much more difficult for the PWP. How one exercises may depend upon physical symptoms, the current physical condition of the patient, finances, accessibility to therapy centers and so on.

Many patients, especially younger patients already had an exercise routine and try to continue with that. They play sports and they work out in a variety of ways. Jogging if possible, lifting weights, swimming. At a therapy center each patient is observed and a specific routine is designed for them. The program I use was designed specifically for me by a therapist.

Now I am in a program for people who have completed their therapy programs with the physical therapist and want to continue using the equipment and facilities of the therapy center. Equipment includes three bikes styles: recumbent, semi-elliptical and exercise bikes. Nautilus machines include ones for exercising abdominal, obliques, leg extension, leg lift, hip abductor, triceps, triceps extension, lateral raise, vertical chest and leg press.

Other equipment includes treadmills for which I do not have a go-ahead yet. And of course the 90 ft pool, a whirlpool and therapy pools with wheelchair-type access available 6 days a week. I have one more session available with the therapist to assess my progress and revise my particular program...all this for $68 USD a month.

I have been attending this therapy center for about a year now and my muscle loss has stopped as my muscles are slowly gaining definition. Although my PD affected side is much weaker, I feel good about my progress. I have noticed that I can exercise longer against heavier resistance when I'm using the machines, instead of walking or using free weights.

The exercise in the swimming pool is easiest for me, although I have a tendency to think I'm doing almost nothing much in the pool...until I wake up the next morning...sore. It's hard to tell you are actually exercising because of water buoyancy effect.

Using the equipment I warm up on a recumbent bike for 10 minutes
Then leg curls and leg extensions on nautilus = 15 reps
Abdominal machine = 15 reps
Triceps press separately on each arm = 15 reps each
Vertical chest - pushing and pulling 50lbs on my right side and then 30 lbs on my left (PD) side.
Next I exercise on a padded table to stretch my upper torso: Yoga neck exercises and then foot exercises.
Finally onto the semi-recumbent elliptical trainer bike for 15 minutes of cool-down.

I'm encouraged-urged-prodded-nudged by my wife. Knowing I won't still be walking if I don't do this is also a major motivator. Which is why I figured out how to use the semi-recumbent elliptical bike.

When I began using the semi-elliptical recumbent bike I couldn't use my left hand/arm. With the assistance of a physical therapist we figured out that because my left hand, arm, leg were so weak that my left side couldn't keep up and that threw off the rhythm and balance required to operate the bike.

Then I read about the Forced Exercise at the Cleveland Clinic and it gave me the idea that to continue riding as hard as I could with the parts of my body that functioned well and take the left side along for the ride - my own form of tandem riding. And it worked. At first I was able to ride at 40 rpm, then 50 and then on to 60 rpm where I plateaued for a few weeks. I hit 70 rpm a few days ago - I can't sustain it yet but I'm making progress.

The great thing about working out at a therapy or fitness center is there are people around. At home the cats often keep me company during exercise but I'm more motivated to stick to my exercise schedule knowing I'll be with acquaintances.

Sadly, people I've grown to know and like there disappear from time to time. Under HIPPA rules the staff is not allowed to say what happened to them. In many cases I know what their health problem was because I could see its symptoms or the patient told me. But I do not know why I no longer see them exercising there.

I was disappointed to learn that the center will not be getting a bicycle for Forced Exercise within the next few months. They chose another piece of equipment instead. I had high hopes for seeing a dramatic change with that bike.

It also disappoints me a lot that there aren't more people with chronic motion disorders exercising, it may be the only treatment that really works.

On Sundays I exercise at home with the cats.


  1. I really am interested in getting myself involved in a thorough exercise program such as you describe. I am a PD sufferer too. While I have had some therapy sessions, they were not set up to provide on-going exercise regimes. So, I will be kinda on my own to find a program. I will do it! Thank you for your inspirational example!

    David Allen, San Marcos, Texas

  2. Ask your physician to prescribe the exercise therapy for you. By doing that you may find a medical deduction you can take at the end of the year.

  3. You got great spirit. Never let any desease take you over


Welcome to Parkinsons Focus Today.
We are delighted to hear from you by comment here
or through email as found in Contact Us.

Please do not include email addresses if leaving a comment online.
Email addresses are used only for email responses.

Spammers take note: your messages will not be published. The comments section is for an exchange of ideas, not for backlinks.