November 10, 2016

I No Longer "Exercise." I Just Keep Moving.

Maybe I’m playing name games with “exercise” and “moving.” But I feel like what I started doing recently may really be slowing down the progress of my Parkinson’s disease (PD).

In the past, I’d tell myself "You need to exercise!" I'd think about scheduling 30 minutes later in the day and I’d wonder: Should I play one of my exercise videos or work out a program of my own, using my collection of printed exercise instructions?

I was pretty good about doing some type of exercise, convinced it was treating my PD at least as much as my meds. If I was a good boy, I’d exercise four or five days a week.

In time, I figured out which body movements from the videos and printed instructions seemed to help most. During the past several months, I’ve mostly “winged it,” avoiding the videos and printed materials, and instead spontaneously creating my own “routines” of stretches and movements that have proved helpful.

My home gym from the start has been my bedroom. The equipment? The bathroom sink, the railing at the bottom of my bed, and the Harvard chair. But now I exercise throughout the house and throughout the day. The kitchen has become a favorite venue. I use the counters and sink for stretching and doing standing push-ups. I get to work as I wait for the microwave oven bell to tell me lunch or dinner is ready.

Today, I ate lunch standing at the table in my upstairs office, where I keep a small refrigerator and microwave. While eating my Trader Joe's "Thai-style citrus chicken salad," I marched in place.

Before sitting in any chair in the house, I do some stretches. While seated, I try – but often forget -- to do some of those seated exercises I've learned.

Typically, people with PD experience increasing stiffness and rigidity. I’m more and more convinced that what I’m doing – the regular movement and stretching through the day – is helping to keep those progressive symptoms in check… at least for now.

John Rehm: My Motivator
What motivates me is remembering NPR talk show host Diane Rehm's description of her husband John at the end of his life with Parkinson's. John was diagnosed with PD in 2005. He died 10 years later, opting for VSED (Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking). Here's her description of what Parkinson's had left him with:
Parkinson's disease so affected him that he no longer had the use of his hands, arms, or legs, because he could no longer stand, walk, eat, bathe or in any way care for himself on his own.
I'll share more thoughts about my own final exit plans in upcoming posts. But for now, I'm motivated, remembering Diane's sad description.

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