I often smiled when I watched the video recording of my kick-boxing exercise which I uploaded to You Tube. My trainers and videographer told me the same thing – “You do not look like a Parkinson’s patient at all”. Even my doctor shook his head in disbelief and said, “This is shocking. I can’t imagine a 70-year-old Parkinson’s patient doing a very strenuous exercise such as kickboxing. I am sure that you are the only Parkinson’s patient in Malaysia who is doing the kickboxing exercise.”
As early as 1998, I already had both the motor and non-motor symptoms. Since my diagnosis in 2002, I went through a period of depression, anxiety, denial and anger. Subsequently, I bounced back after discovering a secret recipe for fighting Parkinson’s, which consisted of: knowledge (is power), exercise, medications, nutrition / supplements and prayer. In my quest for knowledge, I surfed various Parkinson’s websites, raining them with questions, questions and questions. I even started the first Parkinson’s blog in Malaysia (www.heroteo.com). I tried to learn everything about Parkinson’s in order to overcome all complications - the Chinese heroes won the battles by understanding their enemy first.
Animal experiments showed that exercise may be neuroprotective. Rats which were forced to exercise had a lesser degree of brain damage after they were exposed to poison. In mice which were made to undergo treadmill exercise, there was increased production of dopamine.
Parkinson’s patients are comparable to the car. The medications are needed to help patients to start walking, while fuel or battery is needed to help start the car engine. Exercise is needed to improve the patients’ physical mobility and endurance, while driving helps to recharge the battery. Thus, exercise helps our “engines” warm up before leaving home and keep the “cars” going everyday. Even healthy people such as Bruce Lee, the Chinese Kung Fu master, know that exercise is beneficial.
As such, since 2005, I decided to “get physical”. I spend 3-4 hours everyday at the California Fitness gym, doing a wide range of “heavy” exercise such as kick-boxing, weight-training and spinning (indoor cycling). Twice a week, I do yoga exercise at home with the guidance of a trainer.
Since this year, my physical condition has drastically improved. I sleep and eat well (I eat to live, and live to eat). I enjoy driving around the Kuala Lumpur city with my wife everyday and going overseas for holiday. I managed to reduce the daily dose of Parkinson’s medications recently. Sometimes, I wonder whether I am just a “normal person” behind the mask.
I know that it is technically difficult to prove that exercise has neuroprotective effect in Parkinson’s patients. Despite this, I believe that exercise has slowed down my disease progression. I hope that my video recording will bring hope and happiness to all Parkinson’s patients in this world, by reminding them that they can still live a physically active life.