Aaron Hinks/file photos                                Brien Smith being trained by former professional boxer Frankie LaSasso at Rock Steady Boxing Wednesday morning. Below; SuperWalk co-ordinator Liz Campbell-Holroyd.

Aaron Hinks/file photos Brien Smith being trained by former professional boxer Frankie LaSasso at Rock Steady Boxing Wednesday morning. Below; SuperWalk co-ordinator Liz Campbell-Holroyd.

Fighting Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s SuperWalk to be held in White Rock Sept. 10

After several minutes of high-intensity exercise, Brien Smith starts to break free from the chains that slow his day-to-day routine.

Smith, 65, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 14 years ago.

“The challenges are just daily living. To greater or lesser extent, one can feel like they’re working through the day immersed in liquid concrete. Parkinson’s tends to slow everything down, including the thought process in the later stages. It’s just difficult to forge a daily routine,” he told Peace Arch News last week.

The relationship between exercise and Parkinson’s disease symptoms has been of interest to academics in the medicinal realm. Reports suggest that exercise can reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s by 30 per cent.

Smith says there’s no debate.

“I can go hobble to the tennis courts and as soon as I start focusing and rallying with the ball, the symptoms kind of melt away. It’s amazing…. I don’t feel like I have the disease whatsoever.”

Smith keeps a rigid exercise routine. Every day he aims to sink 30 baskets at his local basketball court. He boxes five-times a week and mixes in swimming, jogging, cycling and yoga.

Smith is a member of the Rock Steady Boxing course, a program designed for people with Parkinson’s. The highlight of the class, he says, is being able to sparr the with instructor and former professional boxer Frankie LaSasso, who wears punching mitts.

“If you hit the (punching mitt) with your glove in the right place of the palm, there’s this lovely snap sound that goes through the gymnasium. It’s like that satisfying feeling you get when you hit the ball with that driver, on the right spot. The sweet spot.”

His boxing classmate Liz Campbell-Holroyd, who was diagnosed in 2010 at age 52, puts as much of a focus on exercising as Smith

“That’s all I do, it’s not so bad. There’s worse things. It’s very critical and even though Brien is doing it, I’m doing it, there still needs to be more of a focus on it for people with Parkinson’s that are not exercising,” Campbell-Holroyd told PAN.

“Certainly I have my days, I’m sure Brien does too, but the exercise, I believe, does help slow the progression of the disease.”

Fitting, then, that Campbell-Holroyd is organizing the second annual Parkinson’s SuperWalk in White Rock.

Registration for the White Rock event begins at 9 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 10 in the parking lot of Kintec, 15185 Russell Ave. Participants can choose from a 1.5-km, 2-km and a five-km walk, starting at 10 a.m.

Campbell-Holroyd’s first attempt at co-ordinating the event, last year, drew more than 250 people and raised approximately $27,000.

The SuperWalk is held in 27 locations throughout the province in September. To date, the initiative has raised $125,000 of a $460,000 goal.

More information on Sunday’s event can be found at www.superwalkbc.kintera.org

Parkinson’s is a progressive disease of the nervous system causing tremors, muscular rigidity and slow, imprecise movement.

According to a medical journal published by the US National Library of Medicine, research suggests that although there are medications for the disease, patients can benefit from “forced exercise.”

“These findings suggest that medication and forced exercise likely use the same pathways to produce symptomatic relief in patients with Parkinson’s disease,” the journal says. “Medication and forced exercise are two very different therapies, which can improve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. This study suggests that despite their apparent differences, the changes these therapies induce in the brain connectivity are highly similar.”