Why Walk? I Hate Walking!


My name is John Pepper. I am a Parkinson’s patient. My Parkinson’s disease started in 1963, when I found that I could not throw a ball properly. However, I was only diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1992, when I developed a bad walking gait.

Why did it take twenty-nine years before I was diagnosed?

I am neither a doctor nor a gym teacher. Having said that - since diagnosis - I have taken note of every news item I could find, concerning Parkinson's. Many news articles claimed that certain types of energetic exercise can and do affect the progression of Parkinson’s Disease

What has been my experience regarding exercise?

I spent twenty-two years, from 1970 to 1992, going to the gym, for one hour a day, six days a week, doing aerobic exercises and weight-training exercises.

For the next two years, after diagnosis, I increased the gym to 90 minutes - doing 60 minutes of aerobic exercise on the treadmill, step climbing and bicycle machines; and then, thirty minutes on various other weight-bearing machines.

During those two years, my condition continued to slowly get worse. After two years in 1994, I gave up the gym entirely, and gave in to my wife, Shirley's, request to join her at Run/Walk for Life. Within three months, my performance had improved quite noticeably. That was the first time it had shown any improvement for many years. That was the turning point in my Parkinson’s Disease!

What actually happened, since giving up going to the gym?

At Run/Walk for Life, I only did aerobic walking for three sessions a week, having started at twenty minutes a session, which increased by five minutes every second week. At the end of three months, I was walking for 45 minutes a session. The reason for doing only walking every second day was to give my muscles a chance to recover, after each exercise session. I was only allowed to walk every second day. In the past, I had been doing the same exercise every day, thus, not giving my muscles a chance to recover. They ended up eating up muscle tissue, in order to get the required energy they needed. The result was, my muscles got smaller and my fatty tissue grew larger. Not a good situation!

Energetic Walking Produces a substance Called GDNF!

What produces GDNF (Glial Derived Neurotrophic Factor) and why is it produced?

The body has a survival system, which is only activated when it thinks the body is under attack, or in danger. When we are under attack, or in danger, we either stand up to it and fight for our life, or we run away from it - the fight or flight syndrome - of which you must have heard.

The body produces this Growth Factor in every area of the body, which repairs the damaged tissue, if and when required. GDNF repairs damaged brain tissue, whereas the Growth Factor produced in the liver produces liver tissue etc. Our problem is that we have damaged Glial cells, which are neurons, that produce dopamine. When the GDNF repairs some of the neurons, we produce more dopamine and we start to get better. However, as we have not done anything to stop the Parkinson's from killing off more glial cells, we have to continually try to produce enough GDNF to stay ahead of the Parkinson's.  

In other words, we have our own, built-in, repair kits!

What is the optimum time we should walk?

The optimum time for exercise has been found to be three, one-hour sessions, at maximum effort, per week, with a one day rest between sessions.

Why does more than one hour not produce more GDNF?

I don't know, but many tests have been done, and that was the result.

Why is walking or running the best form of exercise for this purpose?

It keeps our pulse-rate up to maximum level and maintains it there until we stop. Other forms of exercise tend to be stop-start, and cannot be sustained at any level, for the required one hour. If we were boxing, it would be just as good, but we could not sustain that for a full hour. As most Parkinson's patients have problems with balance, I would recommend walking, but running is just as good. Walking on the open road is better than walking on a treadmill, because we have to think about the surface on which we are walking and where we are going - whereas, on a treadmill, we merely have to put one foot in front of the other. This came out of many of the studies. The best results are produced when the brain is kept as active as the body. I assume that the condition required by the body to, produce the GDNF, would involve both the brain and the body.

Guess why I choose to walk?

I get lots of patients telling me that they don't like walking. It is boring! To me, it is not half as boring as the thought of being unable to move very well, or go anywhere, while living from one dose of medication to the next.

I have to concentrate so hard on walking properly, that I don't have time to get bored. It is so important to me, that I would not care if it got boring, as I enjoy my quality of life, even at the age of seventy-nine (2014).

We all have to make our own choices!

Either we do nothing, take our medication and put up with our Pd; or we exercise regularly and honestly, take the minimum medication and enjoy the benefits, by living a full life.

 The choice is all yours!