Which is Better? Walking on a Treadmill or on Uneven Surfaces.
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.
I am asked, almost every day, “Is walking on a treadmill as good as walking on the ground?” This question arises mainly due to the difficulty in many countries, due to weather conditions, walking outdoors. If you live in a country where weather precludes you from walking outdoors safely, then you should try to walk in a shopping mall or on an indoor running track.
The answer to this question depends on what you are trying to achieve by doing the walking? If you are trying to get fit then you will probably get the same benefit from both, but I am not too sure about that.
What I am sure about is that if you have Pd and you want to get the most benefit out of walking then do it on uneven surfaces, like playing fields or parks or even on paved roads.
The reason for this is that we patients have a problem in our brain. Pd has damaged an area of our brain that affects our movements. We want to do exercise that can repair that damage, if that is at all possible.
Our bodies often get injured, and if our bodies were not able to repair those injuries then we would not have survived as a species. It is as simple as that!
Every single cell in our body makes something called ‘Growth Factor’. So when you injure yourself your body repairs that injury by using these growth factors. Not all injuries can be repaired this way, with the result we die. But most of them can be repaired.
Pd damages the Glial cells in an area of the brain called the substantia nigra. Those glial cells help produce a growth factor called GDNF (Glial Derived Neurtrophic Factor). That repairs the damaged glial cells. Neurotrophic means ‘Nerve Repair’, or ‘Nerve Building’. So our brains make their own ’Repair/Building kit’.
As a layman I am in foreign territory. I read lots of information relating to Pd and I have often read two totally different versions of what Pd does to the glial cells. Some say that Pd ‘kills’ those glial cells and others say that Pd ‘damages’ those glial cells. Now this is very important. When cells die they get removed from the body by a process called ‘apoptosis’. But if those cells die and get removed they can’t be repaired. That being the case then maybe the GDNF replaces those dead cells and the brain would then produce more dopamine and we would get better.
On the other hand, if those glial cells are put out of action by the Pd, and those glial cells get blocked by a substance called ‘alpha synuclein’, which puts the cell out of action but does not kill it, then the GDNF may get rid of the alpha synuclein and therefore repair it and it would then continue to produce dopamine again.
The latter of these two scenarios seems to me to be the correct one, but I am not a scientist. All I know is that since I have been doing fast walking on our roads and over rough ground, my Pd symptoms have improved.
Just in case somebody rightfully says, “Who says that the fast walking caused that improvement? “, I have to say that during the years I was getting better, I also did other things that could possibly have helped to cause that improvement, namely:
- Only taking an MAO-b inhibitor for those eight years, which is very unusual.
- Having given up my high-powered job and reduced my stress levels
- Adopting a positive attitude towards my Pd
- Stimulating my brain by doing puzzles and other brain activities like learning another language.
- Overcoming my movement problems by using my conscious brain to control those movements.
Only a controlled scientific study could give us the answer as to whether any or all of these actions have been the reason why my condition has improved.
Perhaps we can take some of the huge sums of money spent on looking for that elusive CURE and spend it on something that would make all of our lives as good as mine has been over the past 14 years.
While I was in Canada I met three different people who have raised large sums of money for the purpose of finding a cure for Pd. They have all expressed a willingness to play a part in conducting a double-blind scientific study into what I have been doing. I have also met a medical doctor, who has agreed to take part in specifying the study in the correct way, so that the results will be viewed by the medical profession as positive proof of the effect of Fast Walking on the progression of Pd.
When that all happens, I will feel that my mission to make Pd a manageable condition that does not require any harmful medication will be complete and I can rest in peace, knowing that I have achieved my goal!.