Two people with Parkinson's share their stories on how they stay active.
I'm convinced that playing table tennis regularly for the last 16 years has meant I’m better able to manage my Parkinson’s.
When I’m playing I forget everything in the heat and pace of the game. The slowly-encroaching clumsiness in the other areas of my life has not yet reached the table tennis court.
It’s a fast game and there’s little time to think – you can only react as the small ball flies at you in a blur (rotating at approximately 5,500 revs per minute, at my modest level).
Decisions have to be made in a split second. It’s fantastic for hand-eye coordination and the movements from side to side, backwards, and forwards, is good for balance.
I’m sure it’s also good for the brain as you have to form the correct technique of the basic strokes and continually repeat those actions until they become part of your muscle memory. There’s an emphasis on decision-making and strategy too, to outwit the opponent – rather like a physical form of chess.
This may all sound a bit serious. It’s actually great fun, and I have forged many good friendships across the table.
People of all ages, shapes, sizes and abilities play regularly. It’s a passion to constantly drive to improve and play the perfect game. I have played in the Bedford league for the last 12 years and am determined to play for as long as I possibly can.
I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 5 years ago at the age of 49. Since then I have had to stop working and can no longer drive, which has had a huge impact on my life.
My husband died suddenly 2 years ago. Living an independent life became increasingly difficult for me. I lost my confidence, hardly ever left the house and my mobility was getting worse. I had to use a wheelchair whenever I did go out, and I was close to getting a mobility scooter to get around.
Then in June this year my friend, whose husband has Parkinson’s, told me she was taking me to a British Nordic Walking group. I was reluctant at first – I just didn’t think it was for me. But as soon as the instructor showed me how to use the poles it was like getting two new legs. I found a confidence I never knew I had.
We meet up once a week to do walks in the local area. There are around 12 of us with similar neurological conditions. Not only am I able to walk more confidently again, but I can also walk uphill with more ease. The group is amazing – we support each other and I have formed new friendships.
My neighbour’s 11-year old son Alex has been encouraging me the whole time. When I was shielding, he kept me company by talking to me over the garden wall. When I told him about the group he said that he was going to walk with me to give me support and encouragement.
We started off literally walking around the block for 10 minutes, three times a day. He would walk with me in all weathers. He now pushes me to increase the distance and pace. He is incredibly selfless and has been a great support.
Since I started assisted Nordic walking I have been to the seaside several times, gone shopping and done so many other activities, all without the need for a wheelchair. Being out of the house and walking daily in the fresh air has given me my mobility back and a new lease of life. My poles go everywhere with me now.
Find out more
For more information on local exercise classes and groups, call our helpline on 0808 800 0303, or by using our local support finder tool below.
Please note that some clubs or groups may not be running, depending on local or national coronavirus guidelines.