In my experience working with people with Parkinson’s Disease and exercising with Parkinson’s, there are two things that are most often underestimated. It does not seem to matter if they are spinning, boxing, Tai Chi… ing or just taking a walk, we miss the mark when it comes to:
You have heard it: “Your body is 60% water. Drink eight glasses of water every day. Your brain is more than 70% water.” But I will be more blunt: if you don’t drink enough water, you will suck at everything. You will get sick more, shake more, think less, get depressed, freeze more, be weak, sleep poorly and get fat. None of that is good.
- Your daily target for water is half of your body weight in ounces. So, if you weigh 180 pounds, you should drink 90 ounces of water every day. That is your top target. Lofty but achievable. But, don’t jump into this. Work your way up over a few weeks. Your body will need to get used to this slowly.
- Drink water early and often. Drink first thing in the morning, before and during every meal and while you are working out. Even while you are watching TV.
- Coffee, beer, liquor and soft drinks don’t count. Most Americans are chronically dehydrated because we drink coffee with breakfast, Coke with lunch and beer or wine with dinner. Drink WATER.
You have to work hard when you work out. Mild therapeutic movement is good to help your muscles and joints, but they don’t do much to help combat Parkinson’s at the neural level. Your brain does its best work at high levels of physical intensity. Get up to difficult and then push yourself to do just a little bit more, go a little bit faster, go a little bit further.
All sorts of good chemicals are released and processes are kicked off when your body is working hard. Your brain even grows and makes new connections – you learn. This is an evolutionary thing: the people who learned from intense moments (running from a mammoth, lifting a tree off of a baby, etc.) lived.
- “Intense” is different for everyone. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. They are doing their stuff for their reasons. This is your workout. Push it up to where it works for you. Then maybe a little higher.
- Most people do not push themselves hard enough – It is difficult and uncomfortable but that is the point. Exercise is stress from movement. It causes improvement in the movement areas of your brain. Like heat-treating steel – you have to make it temporarily weak to make it stronger forever.
- You need to be breathing hard but still able to speak a sentence. Not gasping and wheezing, but not able to carry on a full conversation. You want to be at the “Vigorous” level (7 to 8) of the Rate of Perceived Exertion scale.
- When you are doing resistance work (lifting weights, bands, etc.), minimize your rest between sets or exercises. Alternate muscle groups (push then pull) to let one muscle group rest while the other one works but keep up the exertion.
- But, stop before it crushes your soul. You don’t want to hurt yourself or regret a workout and dread the next one. Leave a little in the tank for next time.