June 15, 2012

EXERCISE: Trying to Heed My Own Advice But I Could Use That Promised New Motivation Pill

Exercise, exercise, exercise.

I’m not getting enough, and I’ll bet you’re not, either.

Yesterday I wrote about the Frontline program on Parkinson’s. In that documentary, a researcher said that a well-designed exercise program is better for many of us with PD than all the meds we take.

And let’s be clear: exercise benefits EVERYBODY: young and old, healthy and ill. With all the flawed studies and inconclusive findings out there, there isn’t much we can count on for sure. But we can count on this: exercise is good for us. If we’re not exercising in some way – and we can all find some real way to exercise – we are CHOOSING to NOT take care of ourselves. We’re clever about making excuses not to exercise: too busy, feeling tired, crummy weather, do it tomorrow. When we make those excuses, we are choosing NOT to take care of ourselves. We’re downgrading health -- our very well-being -- on our list of important things.

For kicks, I just searched “exercise” on my own blog, and was directed to THIRTY TWO different posts about exercise. These commentaries describe how exercise helps people with high blood pressure, diabetes, cognitive and memory challenges, depression, Parkinson’s, arthritis, and heart disease. It also helps keep people with Parkinson’s – like me – balanced and on our feet.

Advice from Harvard
Then this morning, I was reviewing the March 2012 Harvard Health Letter. A headline caught my eye: “Another reason to get out there and get moving! Vigorous exercise may prevent Parkinson’s disease and help treat it.”

Here are several quotes from that article:
Parkinson’s disease is a brain disease that affects the body and how it moves. Yet moving the body – exercising – may be one of the best and most underutilized ways of combating the condition. Exercising vigorously when you’re middle-aged may (sorry, no guarantees) lessen your chance of getting Parkinson’s when you’re older. And for people who already have the disease, exercising during the early stages – when a fair amount of physical movement is still possible – may slow the pace at which the disease gets worse and physical movement becomes increasingly difficult…. 
Parkinson’s disease patients probably also benefit from exercise and overall physical, beyond the more specific effects of physical therapy. Many lines of research have shown that exercise, especially if it’s aerobic and gets the heart beating faster, has a protective effect on brain tissue. There are also some – not many – findings specific to Parkinson’s that suggest cardiovascular fitness has benefits. For example, Parkinson’s patients who are in good shape score better on cognitive and muscle control tests. They may also live longer.
Exercise and Me
I've been pretty good about exercise most of my life. I grew up in hilly Ithaca, NY, and the family didn't have a car. So I climbed up and down those hills. In Washington, I often commuted to work by bike and was out biking most weekends when it wasn't snowing. I hated giving up my biking, but my balance problems with Parkinson's made that decision seem right. Then, as a substitute, I started taking long walks.

But that all changed last summer. The cracked vertebrae that I got from my car crash  in August resulted in lower back pain that kicked in whenever I got off my duff to walk. The vertebrae healed, but the back pain persisted. My doctors tell me it's arthritis.

Now I have one of those excuses I talked about. I have no pain when sitting or lying down. I have pain every time I stand up and with every step I take. My orthopedic said the smartest thing I can do is "walk through the pain." My physical therapist has recommended using my stationary exercise bike most every day for 15 to 30 minutes. But I'm not walking enough, and I can't seem to find the motivation to use the bike.

Hope on the Horizon: An Exercise Motivation Pill!
In my email inbox yesterday was the usual daily alert I get with a rundown on recently released scientific studies related to health. Today's roundup included this report:
A new research report appearing online in The FASFEB Journal says a team of Swiss researchers found that when a hormone in the brain, erythropoietin (EPO), was elevated in mice, they were motivated to exercise."
“Here we show that EPO increases the motivation to exercise,” team researcher Max Gassmann said. “Most probably, EPO has a general effect on a person's mood and might be used in patients suffering from depression and related diseases.”

The researchers said EPO could also be used to help people with obesity and Alzheimer's because physical activity is known to alleviate symptoms.

Jarrod Meerkin, spokesperson for Exercise and Sports Science Australia, says artificial EPO, a drug that is used to treat people with kidney disease, cancer and HIV, is on the banned drug list for athletes.

“It increases the amount of red blood cells so you can carry more oxygen so you can then exercise for longer,” he explains. But the Swiss study looked at increasing people's naturally-produced EPO, which works without elevating red blood cells.

Forget about balancing the nation's budget! Let's spend whatever it takes to get this pill on the market as soon as possible!

1 comment:

Patricia said...

John you hit the nail on the head for me...been layed up for 4 weeks with fractured shoulder when deck chair gave way...trying to get motivated again...hard to do....garden weeds are taking over...oh dear.

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