Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Science catching up to the Spandex Angel

Flashback: When I was first diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, I had an encounter with the Spandex Angel. The angel appeared before me, resplendent in raiment of finest Spandex, vibrant with hues of a vividness not found in nature. The angel was both buff and ripped. Lo, its abs were like unto six packs, and its buns were of steel. And I was sore afraid. And stress did cause my Parkinson's symptoms to wax, and I did tremor with a vengeance. And the angel spake unto me, saying "Fear not, for though thou walk in the valley of PD, thou art not entirely helpless. Indeed thou hast a choice: Sit like unto a lump, inert and pathetic, and let this disease carry you down in an ever steepening spiral, or fight back against your insidious foe with exercise. This is thy choice: Move it or lose it!" Thus spake the Spandex Angel.

The wisdom of this apparition has proved reliable, and almost prophetic over time. While the angel offered no scientific proof of its message, much promising evidence of the benefit of exercise regularly crops up in new Parkinson's research. Here is a link to a report from ABC on the benefit of "forced exercise". What is "forced exercise"? Essentially it means pushing yourself to exercise at a sustained level that is higher than you would ordinarily maintain. In this case, pedaling a bike at a higher rate than the subject ordinarily would pedal. The video with the report has some spectacular footage of my friend Dr. Dave Heydrick, a neurologist with Parkinson's Disease. The video shows Dave completely off meds and with his Deep Brain Stimulator turned off before and after a vigorous ride on a tandem bike. In the before footage, his hand shakes like an aspen leaf in the wind. In the after footage, the tremor is undetectable. Check it out, then hit the gym (After consulting your doctor about what kind of exercise routine is right for you.)