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Thread: Swimming with Parkinson's Disease

  1. #1
    Very Active Member jim thornton's Avatar
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    Swimming with Parkinson's Disease

    I did a search of the forums and couldn't find this topic being discussed anywhere. But I am curious if any of our members who have been diagnosed with PD and continue to swim might share any tips or advice with regards to training.

    Two friends of mine here in the Pittsburgh area have recently been diagnosed, and both are determined to continue swimming despite slowing down. It seems to me that aquatic exercise could be a great way to exercise and perhaps even slow down the progression of the disease. Surely, there must be within the greater USMS ranks more than a handful of swimmers who are currently contending with this disease.

    I told my one friend, who isn't a USMS member, that I would post an inquiry on his behalf here on the forums and share any results it might turn up.

    Thanks in advance!

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    Very Active Member Allen Stark's Avatar
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    Re: Swimming with Parkinson's Disease

    Does anyone know how to contact Phillip Whitton. He is/was a Masters Swimmer and former editor of Swimming World magazine. I know he has Parkinson's and had been competing at least until 2012. He said that swimming was helping in dealing with it.
    "To strive,to seek,to find,and not to yield" Tennyson
    Allen

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    Very Active Member jim thornton's Avatar
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    Re: Swimming with Parkinson's Disease

    Quote Originally Posted by Allen Stark View Post
    Does anyone know how to contact Phillip Whitton. He is/was a Masters Swimmer and former editor of Swimming World magazine. I know he has Parkinson's and had been competing at least until 2012. He said that swimming was helping in dealing with it.
    Tracy Grilli just emailed me Phil's number, and I am planning to give him a call soon.

    Thanks for the suggestion. As a psychiatrist, do you ever treat people with PD, Allen? I didn't realize the hallucination symptoms until some drug company started running TV ads about how up to 50 percent of PD patients suffer these.

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    Very Active Member Allen Stark's Avatar
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    Re: Swimming with Parkinson's Disease

    Most PD patients see neurologists of course, but I have a very few people I am seeing for other problems. PD can progress very slowly or very rapidly. Hopefully it is slowly for your friends. The PD hallucinations are not typically an early issue. Maybe 50% eventually get that, but the vast majority of PD patients do not have it at any given time.
    "To strive,to seek,to find,and not to yield" Tennyson
    Allen

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    Active Member airborne18th's Avatar
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    Re: Swimming with Parkinson's Disease

    Quote Originally Posted by jim thornton View Post
    I did a search of the forums and couldn't find this topic being discussed anywhere. But I am curious if any of our members who have been diagnosed with PD and continue to swim might share any tips or advice with regards to training.

    Two friends of mine here in the Pittsburgh area have recently been diagnosed, and both are determined to continue swimming despite slowing down. It seems to me that aquatic exercise could be a great way to exercise and perhaps even slow down the progression of the disease. Surely, there must be within the greater USMS ranks more than a handful of swimmers who are currently contending with this disease.

    I told my one friend, who isn't a USMS member, that I would post an inquiry on his behalf here on the forums and share any results it might turn up.

    Thanks in advance!
    I don't have PD, but for my issues I did my Movement Disorder work with a PD workout group. The issue with PD is that it is wide ranging in its impact. The group I was with had all levels of PD, from just diagnosed to advanced. And some it really progressed quickly, while others it was very slow.

    And the bigger issue was the side effects of the meds. That seemed to create a wide range issues that impacted ability to function. I tried getting the group in the pool, but the water temp required for most PD patients is the therapy pool range ( 90 - 92 ).
    TSAC-F,Swim Speed Secrets - STGRID

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    Very Active Member Redbird Alum's Avatar
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    Re: Swimming with Parkinson's Disease

    Quote Originally Posted by airborne18th View Post
    ... but the water temp required for most PD patients is the therapy pool range ( 90 - 92 ).
    Wow, I never knew this tidbit. Is the warmer water therapeutic in the treatment of PD, or just a means of relieving symptoms?


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    Re: Swimming with Parkinson's Disease

    Hello- I have ran programs for swimmers with various needs for adaption. Our main topic of interest was to improve the balance at the beginning of the swimmers classes. It is an excellent diversion from the gravitational pull and lack of coordination one feels with Parkinson's disease. As a nurse I can tell you specifically, water exercise does seems to slow the progression. I would be willing to travel to help set up programs. Thanks for the post, Kerri

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    Active Member airborne18th's Avatar
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    Re: Swimming with Parkinson's Disease

    Quote Originally Posted by Redbird Alum View Post
    Wow, I never knew this tidbit. Is the warmer water therapeutic in the treatment of PD, or just a means of relieving symptoms?
    A majority of PD patients have major issues with body temperature regulation.. both ways.. hot and cold. So the AEA recommendation is 90-92 degrees. With arthritis and other conditions the water temperature is theraputic as well as the exercise itself. So the Arthritis foundation gives grants to pools with the stipulation that you keep the pool at a specific minimum temperature, which is why some pools don't lower the temperature below 86 or whatever it is ( I think the number is 86 ).. A good number of neurological conditions require colder water.. So you have this no-win situation with water temp.. Personally for me it is colder water that helps..

    That is really the challenge with it and I saw this in the group I worked out with.. the impact is wide ranging, from the people who sweat no matter what temperature, and the people who were always cold. Though I wish they would have gotten in the water. The pure freedom of water from balance and motor issues is really liberating..
    TSAC-F,Swim Speed Secrets - STGRID

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    Very Active Member jim thornton's Avatar
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    Re: Swimming with Parkinson's Disease

    Quote Originally Posted by swimonkerri View Post
    Hello- I have ran programs for swimmers with various needs for adaption. Our main topic of interest was to improve the balance at the beginning of the swimmers classes. It is an excellent diversion from the gravitational pull and lack of coordination one feels with Parkinson's disease. As a nurse I can tell you specifically, water exercise does seems to slow the progression. I would be willing to travel to help set up programs. Thanks for the post, Kerri
    Hi, Kerry. Thanks to you and everyone else who has replied. If you send me an email, I can forward it to my friend with PD. Super nice guy, one of the smartest people you will ever meet, and who knows? Maybe with your help, he could help popularize a modified masters swimming regimen for people with Parkinson's and other movement disorders.

    My email address is jamesthornton1@comcast.net

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    Re: Swimming with Parkinson's Disease

    Very interesting and somewhat ironic that this topic came up now, as I have a very athletic friend (54 yo) who was recently diagnosed with PD and is looking for other athletic endeavors (he does not currently swim) to help him cope physically and emotionally.

    Kerry, could I get your email also?

    my email is werner@radiantcare.com

    Thank you!

  11. #11
    Active Member airborne18th's Avatar
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    Re: Swimming with Parkinson's Disease

    Quote Originally Posted by jim thornton View Post
    Hi, Kerry. Thanks to you and everyone else who has replied. If you send me an email, I can forward it to my friend with PD. Super nice guy, one of the smartest people you will ever meet, and who knows? Maybe with your help, he could help popularize a modified masters swimming regimen for people with Parkinson's and other movement disorders.

    My email address is jamesthornton1@comcast.net
    Jim there is no need for USMS to do anything.. There are plenty of organizations and programs that deal with movement disorders in the pool and on land. Where people with issues need USMS is providing opportunities to compete in events and participate. Which from their rule changes I can see they do. The trend with all of the governing bodies is to be inclusive in particpation.. which is a refreshing change from the.. oh they can compete in the paralympics approach.. IPC classification is pretty out there.
    TSAC-F,Swim Speed Secrets - STGRID

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    Re: Swimming with Parkinson's Disease

    Hi Jim,
    thanks for posting this topic. My doc suspected PD in December 2017 and I started swimming later that month. I've been putting a mile in each night. I was formally diagnosed with PD in June 2018. In December, I joined a local USMS team and swam in my first meet in Feb. 2019. I swim 6 days a week, rain or shine. Unless I have an ear infection.

    My MDS says the swimming is keeping my PD symptoms at bay and mixed with the L-dopa (synthetic dopamine) I take 4 times a day, I'm doing pretty well. He has prescribed daily exercise for me and I don't plan on stopping.

    I've found that Swimming with PD leaves me feeling better than when I walked in. Also, when I miss a day, I have a hard time getting 6 hours of sleep - which is the most I can manage even on my best days. I am pretty stiff, but that's a reaction to PD and the constant exercise (I also walk about 3 miles a day). I generally try to get massages once every 10 days.

    -S

  13. #13

    Re: Swimming with Parkinson's Disease

    I was a USMS member for most of 35 years. I was diagnosed with PD 6 years ago when I was 57. Though I had to work hard to regain my freestyle stroke coordination. Currently I swim 1/2 mile + once or twice a week. In 2016 and 17 I even competed in the Big Shoulders open water swim classic at the 2.5k distance. Each of the two years I used my Facebook page to raise a total of $7k for the Michael J Fox Foundation. I also discovered another PD Big Shoulders swimmer in Wisconsin during the course of my fundraising.
    I find swimming to be great therapy and love the pump it gives me. I also hate cold water.

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