Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Spandex Angel

I was vague about what lay in store after I got my diagnosis of Parkinson's disease in early January, 2002. But I knew it was bad. Preliminary forays to doctors and on the Web were daunting. I could look forward to inexorable progression of a creeping paralysis of voluntary movement. The loss of the ability to walk, to speak, to draw. A disease treatable with medicines that work for awhile, and eventually bring on side effects as difficult as the illness. This is what I was told was coming.

But the last thing I expected was the visitation of the Spandex Angel. After decades of struggling with God, I'm a religious skeptic. So I was taken utterly by surprise when a voice that spoke without words but with unmistakable intent and intensity came to me, and said "You have to exercise. If you don't, your downward spiral will be even steeper and more drastic."

As it turned out, the angel knew whereof it spoke. As I poured on the exercise I noticed temporary improvement in my symptoms. And there are a growing number of exciting studies like those done by Dr. Jay Alberts of the Cleveland Clinic that show definite symptomatic relief after intense exercise. Here's an excerpt from the clinic's web site:

"Dr. Jay Alberts, a neuroscientist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, says in the past, exercise hasn't really helped patients. But by pushing them out of their comfort zone and forcing them to pedal much faster than they would normally, symptoms can improve more than they do from drugs.

'After eight weeks of exercise, symptoms have improved 30 to 35 percent for patients, which is a pretty dramatic improvement,' Alberts explained."

What's more, there are other studies that show possible neuroprotective effects. And exercise is a proven mood elevator. That's significant for those of us who have PD, which is often accompanied by depression.

Plus exercise is cheap, rarely results in an overdose and doesn't have to be imported from Canada. And no forms to fill out or file. One note: It is wise to consult your doctor before ramping up a serious exercise regime.

But take it from me, take it from Dr. Alberts, or take it from the Spandex Angel, "YOU GOT TO MOVE!"

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