September 17, 2013

#1 of My Big Three: Exercise

Bouncing around Europe for five weeks this summer, I relied on the same Big Three I use at home to help with the challenges presented by my Parkinson's and my age:
  1. Exercise
  2. Meditation
  3. Sleep "prescriptions"
These routines make a huge difference in the quality of my life, so I've had no trouble "sticking with them" at home and on the road. "Diet" should really make it a "Big Four" (I'm good at home), but this summer's travel temptations got the better of me.I've taken off half of the nearly 10 pounds I gained.  Today, we'll start with #1:

I usually do two different kinds of exercises every day:
  1. BIG exercises for Parkinson's. After my PD diagnosis four years ago, my neurologist recommended the four-week "BIG" exercise training program designed for people with Parkinson’s by the same organization – Lee Silverman Voice Treatment – that developed the "LOUD" speech therapy for PWPs. The BIG program incorporates some features of the voice program, like shouting out exercise counts. I've stuck with this program because it works for me. Want to see how this 84-year-old klutz does these exercises? Click here.
  2. Core muscle strengthening. For the past two years, lower back pain has caused more trouble for me than PD or aging. It all started when I crashed my car and fractured a vertebra. The injury healed, but the pain persisted. In vain, I tried acupuncture, steroid shots, even reike. Then my neurologist prescribed a refresher course in the BIG exercise program. My world-class therapist decided instead to begin exercises designed to strengthen my core muscles, which she thought would alleviate my discomfort. We focused on two exercises that I could easily do at home: the "belt-tightener" and the "bridge" (descriptions here). I felt some progress, but the pain didn't go away. I continued  taking pain pills.  I did the BIG and core muscle exercises but not much else.
I didn't have to go to Lourdes for a cure; the Marais neighborhood in Paris was enough. Once we settled into our apartment there, I decided to test my ability on an easy self-guided walking tour of the Marais, the charming neighborhood just across the Seine from our apartment on the Île Saint-Louis.

I was amazed: I spent four hours happily wandering around. I was essentially pain-free on this long walk, and without pharmaceutical help. OK, I probably spent more time sitting in cafes or relaxing on park benches than walking. . But I walked more that day than I had since the car crash two years before.

No Lourdes miracle necessary. What I experienced that day was simply the culmination of the slow, steady improvements I've felt since starting the core muscle exercises.

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