This exercise post is near and dear to my heart. I am 55 years old and in pretty good shape. I have always been physically active. I've been involved in martial arts for years and I also enjoy going to the gym and lifting weights, among other things. I was diagnosed about 3 years ago. Even before my diagnosis I was starting to slow down on some of my activities because of excessive fatigue. I still go to the gym and my martial arts classes. I just don't try to be superwoman anymore. When I read that study that says intensive exercise will stop progression of the disease I was excited and thought "Yay! This proves what I already believed" because my progression has seemed to be slow so far. So I jumped on the bandwagon and increased my exercise. I enrolled in some classes at a local MMA school called "Fight Fit" which is basically an extremely difficult HIIT class that lasts for an entire hour. I was very proud of myself when I made it through the first class. However, this was not without a lot of increased tremors going on and literally almost no energy to get myself in the car and drive the 2 miles back home to my house. The next day I was exhausted and I felt like every last bit of dopamine had been wiped out of my body. Hmm...I thought exercise was supposed to make you better and increase your dopamine production. Where are those endorphins? I don't like to give up because like I said...I'm hardheaded, I'm a woman and I think I can be superwoman. The article says I need intensive exercise will make me better so I'm not giving up. I ended up going to 2 more classes. When it was time to go to the next class I literally cringed inside. I couldn't bring myself to go and do that to my body again. I loved the actual exercise and the comaraderie of the other women in the class. But I just felt sooo bad after the class and the next day. My symptoms actually started getting worse and then I started feeling depressed. Yes I know that I can do other exercise but I've actually been having a hard time in some of my martial arts classes lately because of an increase in tremors. I actually quit my Saturday class cause they practiced for 3 hours. I have felt like a failure because I'm now doing less exercise than I was before diagnosis. Yet everybody tells us that you must do intensive exercise. I talked to a friend who's had this disease for 25 years. She made me realize a few things about this "study" that is posted all over the internet.
1) This is not a scientific study by any means.
2) Everybody progresses at a different rate so you can't compare one person to another.
3) There's no way to determine how much somebody would have progressed in 6 months if they had not done the exercise. Seriously, there's no baseline. Six months is a very short time in the space of a lifetime. They might not have gotten worse during that time.
4) What the hell is "intensive exercise?" The study doesn't even mention how long the subjects exercised for. Obviously intensive exercise will be different for every person.
So I decided I'm not going to let myself get depressed because I can no longer do "intensive exercise". I'm going to continue doing whatever I can. I'm really sick of all the people who post pictures of themselves doing bodybuilding, running marathons and similar things and trying to tell the PD community that they are not progressing because they are doing this intensive level of exercise. Maybe the truth is that their disease is progressing slowly so therefore they have the ability to continue working out like that and not the reverse. Seriously, an entire year before I ever had a tremor or other symptom of PD I suffered with extreme fatigue. At the time I was going to the gym doing a five day split, lifting very heavy (for a 110 pd woman). I was so tired in the evenings, I could barely make dinner for myself and my teenage son, then I would be crawling into the bed. My mom kept telling me to go see the doctor because that wasn't normal. Of course, I refused because I thought it was just because I had increased my weight lifting routine and I just needed to get used to it. I didn't want to quit because I had a goal. Anyway, the doctor's would have never figured out what was wrong with me even if I had gone cause I was misdiagnosed even when my tremors started manifesting.
I'd like to end all this rambling to say that PWP should always keep moving and do whatever exercise they are capable of doing even if it's just walking. Yes, it will help you to feel better and probably help to keep your muscles from becoming rigid and locking up on you. However, there is no scientific evidence that it will keep you from progressing. Likewise, you are guaranteed to feel like crap if you give up and lay in the bed all day.