I have kind of been harping about doing activities to improve your fitness, and ramping up the intensity and/or duration as you get fitter; in short, the idea is to find your tolerance for pushing yourself (or being pushed), and always working to go a bit further or faster than before. That approach will usually yield increased performance.

A big part of this challenge – and one of the ideas behind this blog in the first place – is to increase awareness about Parkinson’s Disease. So here is a double-whammy.

Marilyn (see the story in the sidebar) has Parkinson’s Disease. It is a neurodegenerative disease in which key motor-regulating neural pathways begin to degenerate. This means that it becomes increasingly difficult for Parkinson’s sufferers to plan and control movement. One description Marilyn has mentioned and which has also been described in research literature and the media is that movements which used to be virtually automatic now require concerted effort. So, in addition to being physically much more difficult or even impossible, the mental effort required is much greater, and this can be exhausting all-around.

In spite of all this, or maybe even because of it, Marilyn elbowed her way into the fitness challenge last year and announced that she thought she would do some walking in her hallway. She started in January last year at 1 lap of her hallway. This burst of activity was followed by an intense rest on the couch! But she kept at it and, to quote the Monty Python villager who had reportedly been turned into a newt, she got better. And better. And better.

Here’s her data from last year, compared with this year:
February 2016 – Week 1:
22 laps (8 laps = 1 km) –> 2.75km

February 2017 – Week 1:
56 laps (8 laps = 1 km) –> 7.0 km

Quantitatively, her 2017 Week 1 results are more than 2.5 times farther than her 2016 Week 1 results. Qualitatively, there is almost no comparison, as she feels so much better all-around. I’ll let her tell that story, but if you do the math, it is clear that, in spite of this progressive disease, Marilyn has significantly improved her capacity for activity. Along with it, she has reclaimed a massive improvement in quality of life.

If you have Parkinson’s Disease, my encouragement and challenge to you is to first talk with your doctor to find out what kinds of activities you can safely do. Then, with whatever support you require, engage in an activity, starting with small, manageable “doses” of activity. Find a physiotherapist or fitness expert who can guide you, and – whatever your abilities allow – GO FOR IT!

If you don’t have Parkinson’s Disease, my encouragement and challenge is to do whatever things you can to manage your own wellness, and do whatever things you can to support Parkinson’s research. You can participate in this annual fitness challenge. You can donate to the Royal University Hospital Foundation (Dr. Rajput Endowment). You can participate in other Parkinson’s fundraisers. You can spread the word and even promote this blog by emailing the link to other friends or posting on social media.

When you do the math, you can see that all of us doing what we can definitely adds up.