It doesn’t get easier, you just get better
seen on a t-shirt at Box n Burn gym
You want to try something new, but it just seems too difficult. You go to your first yoga class and you are lost. Everyone else seems to know what they are doing, but you are clueless. You keep going, hoping that you will figure it out. And then, one day, you are moving through the poses like everyone else. Your body seems to know what to do. You wake up one morning to discover that you can get out of bed much easier. In addition, your gait has improved, your balance is better, and some of your other symptoms have improved. How did that happen?
Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers: The Story of Success quotes neurologist Daniel Levitin, who said “that 10,000 hours of practice is required to master a level of mastery with being a world-class expert – in anything”. He goes on to say: “It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.” On average, it takes 10 years to reach 10,000 hours. Some examples he gives are The Beatles, concert musicians and hockey players. Their commitment to practice many more hours than others gives them the skills they need to be the best of their profession.
So how does that apply to Parkinson’s Disease? We certainly don’t have the luxury of doing something for 10,000 hours. But if we keep working at a task, we should improve. Right? That is the theory behind LSVT, Rock Steady Boxing, Dancing for PD, Yoga and all of the other PD exercise programs out there. We are told to learn new things. It is good for the brain. It can be difficult to learn a new skill, especially if you have a tremor and stiffness. You start out slowly. But it should start getting easier as your muscles and your brain adapt. And gradually you will work harder and better, without even trying. If you stick with it, you should start noticing positive changes. You have practiced your voice exercises diligently and at some point, you discover that no one is complaining that they can’t hear you. You have worked hard enough and long enough to be able to project your voice without even trying. It now comes naturally to you.
Unfortunately, many Parkie’s are in a slow downward spiral as their symptoms continue to worsen. They try everything they can to slow down the progression, but don’t put in enough time to “master” a skill. I wonder what would happen to Parkie’s if they danced or boxed often enough to reach 1000 hours a year. Would they begin to master the moves? And how would that translate into improvement of their PD?
These are questions for the researchers out there. I don’t know the answers. But I do know that when I am engaged in an activity that I have been practicing often, my PD symptoms seem to improve. I may not have mastered the activity, but it is getting easier over time. And that definitely makes my life better.
If you are not sure what type of exercise to do, here is a list of 12 types of exercise suitable for Parkinson’s Disease patients
A note to my readers, we are leaving for a vacation in Ireland, so there will be no post next week.