Why do Fast Walking for Parkinson`s Disease?

Please note that this and all other articles are written by me, as a person with Parkinson’s disease (Pd). I understand what having Pd is like and what we can and can’t do. I am not a trained Physical Exercise person, nor am I a medically trained person, and the way I describe things is maybe not the same way they would, but you, as Parkinson’s patients, will understand what I am saying.

*When I say his, him or he I mean both sexes.



Walking fast is not natural. When we walk fast I think our brains get a message that we are in trouble!

We have all heard the expression, “Fight or Flight”, by which is meant that when we are in danger, we have the choice to either run away from danger or fight it.

When we fight or run fast we stand a good chance of getting injured.

If we were not capable of repairing reasonable injuries we would not have survived as a species.

When we cut our skin, which often happens, we replace the damaged skin cells with new skin cells. Likewise, when we break a bone we knit the two parts of the bone together with new bone cells.

Every type of cell in the body produces a substance that is known as ‘Growth Factor’. In the brain there are many different types of brain cells and the one we are interested in is our ‘Glial’ cells. These are the cells that are attacked by Parkinson’s disease.

These Glial cells produce a substance called GDNF (Glial Derived Neurotrophic Factor) which is a growth factor. Neurotrophic means ‘nerve repair’ or ‘nerve building’. Glial derived means that this substance is made by the glial cells.

This means that the very cells that are damaged by Parkinson’s disease actually make their own ‘Repair/Building Kit’.

How do we get our brains to produce this GDNF? The answer is, “I am not sure”.

I think that when we do fast walking, which is not natural, because if we were in a hurry we would run, which is much faster than walking and much easier to do. So when we do fast walking, the brain thinks we must be in danger and it produces this GDNF.

Why do I think that fast walking produces the GDNF?

When I went to the gym for ninety minutes every day for the first two years after being diagnosed, my condition proceeded to get worse far quicker than it had before diagnosis. I was doing walking on the treadmill for twenty minutes every day, six days of the week, and riding a bicycle for twenty minutes and climbing steps for twenty minutes every day. That obviously was not producing any GDNF because my symptoms were getting worse much quicker than when I was doing gym for only sixty minutes every day.

But when I gave up the gym two years after diagnosis, and joined ‘Run/Walk for LIFE’, my symptoms started to get noticeably better. Walking on a treadmill is not the same as walking on the road or on grass. The brain does far less work when we walk on a treadmill.

At Run/Walk for LIFE we were only allowed, at the beginning, to walk for 10 minutes every second day. To that was added a further five minutes every second week. After twenty weeks we would be walking for one hour, if we did not have any problems during those twenty weeks. After twenty weeks we did not walk for any more time but we concentrated on walking faster.

Even after those first twenty weeks my time had improved by quite a large margin. When I began I was timed at over ten and a half minutes per kilometre. After i reached one hour of walking I was walking at less than nine minutes a kilometre; an improvement of nearly twenty percent.

Not only had my walking time improved but my symptoms had started to improve as well. Why did this all happen?

My money is on the fast walking being responsible!!!

Dr Beth Fisher and Dr Michael Zigmond did some trials with rats, monkeys and Parkinson’s patients. Those trials all proved that ‘High Intensity Exercise’ brought about a big improvement in the symptoms of all three subjects, This scientific proof was announced at the first World Parkinson’s Congress  (WPC1) held in Washington DC in 2006.

There is much still to be learned about fast walking, but in the meantime, we can all do the walking