January 17, 2011

7. Exercise has been a BIG factor in making 2010 my best year ever.


charter maldriverna

Exercise has always been a big part of my life. The Parkinson’s depression I was experiencing before my diagnosis was compounded by my unhappiness at giving up biking because of balance concerns. Biking had been one of the most important features of my life. Long before bike commuting became common, I started biking to work back in the early 1960s, even through most of Washington’s cold winters and hot, humid summers. I also could be found on my bike most weekends when the weather was at all tolerable.

When I abandoned biking a few years ago, I substituted walking and took hour-long walks most days around my lovely neighborhood (the Palisades section of D.C.). But tripping and falling began to be a problem.

BIG exercise program

Dr. Bahroo, my neurologist, early last year gave me a prescription (the needed pass for getting my sessions covered by Medicare) for the BIG exercise program at the physical therapy department at Georgetown University Hospital. This program was specifically designed for people with Parkinson’s by the same organization – Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT) – that developed the LOUD speech therapy for PD people. Georgetown’s program is also designed to help with the individual client’s special needs. The PT program also incorporates some of the ideas of the voice training program since you are trained to shout out your exercise counts in a good, loud voice. (If you are interested in finding someone to work with on either of these programs, click on the “Find a Clinician” button on this home page for LSVT: http://www.lsvtglobal.com/index.php?action=what-is-lsvt)

The BIG physical therapy program is pretty intense and probably works best for those in the early stages of PD. It also requires a commitment to four weeks of one-hour training session twice a week.

The seven exercises I learned in BIG are now an integral part of my daily life. I have an incentive to keep doing them, since I can clearly see that I’m much better for it. My therapists also taught me how to walk with big steps and arm swings and worked on the balance issues I have while gardening.

Finally, the therapists surprised me by saying they couldn’t see any reason why I couldn’t resume biking. One therapist, a bike specialist, had me bring my bike in and checked that it was set up properly for me. He also suggested ways for me to get on and off the bike without the balance problems I had been having.

Incontinence rehab program

If it hadn’t been for the success I had with the BIG program, I probably wouldn’t have signed up for another therapy program the hospital offered – a program to deal with incontinence. I’ve suffered with this ever since I had a radical prostatectomy in 1995, and aging and Parkinson’s has made it worse. I’d read that Kegel exercises were the best way of dealing with incontinence, and I tried them in the past without any discernible success.

Nevertheless, with low expectations, I got a prescription for the incontinence program from my urologist and began the program late in 2010. I’ve been amazed and delighted with the progress after only a couple of training sessions. I used to get up three or four times a night to pee. Now it’s only one time. The daytime leakage and panic about finding a bathroom now seem to be lessening, and I’m only midway through the program.


In 2010, I found a new obsessive/compulsive physical activity -- gardening. When I retired in 1995, I used a terrific professional landscaper to replace my backyard lawn with a large fish pond and surrounding gardens. Then three or four years ago, I was tiring of power-mowing the front lawn in D.C.’s summer heat and humidity, so I had the same landscaper to substitute ground covers and plants.

While the landscaper did a great job on the basics, there’s still much maintenance to do and much that can be done to enhance the basics. Last year I got caught up in this big time, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. Unlike my former preoccupations with biking or walking, gardening goes beyond the physical benefits of exercise by producing an immediately visible reward.

Physical activity in the winter remains a problem, however. I may have to begin using the elliptical training machine that sits abandoned in my furnace room. 


Janet said...

John, you're an inspiration! I'm passing this on to my friends with PD. Thanks for undertaking the blog.

Jan Smart said...

I tried to connect to BIG on the GU website but the link to PD physical therapy was 'dead'. Do you have a name or Tel.# that I could use?

Thanks so much for all this fab info! You are a star :-)