SUP – Moving Medicine

SUP - Moving Medicine

It’s hard watching someone who at one point in time was so vivacious, full of energy, and smart as a whip become a shell of themselves, bedridden, and unable to tell their bodies to do the things they want to do.

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Welcome to caring for someone with Parkinson’s.  It may be hard for us to see the one we love suffer with it, but I’m sure it’s much more frustrating for them going through it. Such was the case with my 94-year-old grandmother.  A woman who used to dance at the local dance hall with her husband every week and would never sit still for a minute when she was at home, was transformed by this dreadful disease into a weak, fragile soul who would have just enough energy for one day to eat a couple of meals, and that’s it.  She survived many years in this state, I believe, hoping that someday she might “snap out it.” Until the day we lost her, I was alway hoping too.  

Parkinson’s Disease and many forms of it, such as Lewy Body Dementia, which is the form of this disease my grandmother had, is a chronic and progressive movement disorder, meaning that symptoms continue and worsen over time, and Lewy Body specifically affects every aspect of a person; their mood, the way they think, as well as their physical movements.

And I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if, early on, I had gotten her on a paddle board.  Why? I was inspired recently as I read this article: 

“Multi-dimensional balance training program improves balance and gait performance in people with Parkinson’s disease”.

In the research shows how powerful balance training, or what I would term as “balance therapy” is for those suffering from Parkinson’s. But furthermore, the study was conducted to show the benefits of not just training indoors to see improvement, but outdoors as well. It showed significant improvement in balance and gait, based on multi-dimensional balance training, even after followups of up to a year.

Multi-dimensional means involving many aspects or dimensions. I’m no scientist but I would classify Stand up paddling as multi-dimensional, standing on an unstable surface, using a paddle to propel you forward, engaging your core, focusing on the horizon,….out in nature, which in and of itself is quite healing.

So while I can’t say what form of multidimensional balance training was performed in this study that promises much improvement, what I can say is “What if…”

What if SUP was someday a prescribed therapy method for Parkinson’s patients? We might not be far off…

Recently doctors in France began prescribing a 12 week regimen of sports like surfing, swimming, and yes, paddle boarding. And followup data showed that virtually all who completed the 12 weeks went on to continue practicing the sport and reported improved and marked benefits.
You can read about it here:

My hopes are that this will become mainstream: To prescribe a paddle board, instead of a pill.

For, what if someone who we love is in the beginning stages of Parkinson’s disease and we could engage them in a gentle paddle out a couple times a week to keep their disease from progressing? What if we ourselves fear the disease after watching someone we love go through it, and we have the power and the research to engage in something regularly that could potentially prevent it altogether.

Yes, SUP is fun. Yes, it’s relaxing, or exhilarating, or quite a workout depending on who you are and what you are doing, but what if it is medicine too? Moving medicine.

To read more on how Stand up paddling can be therapy to cure what ails you, see my article here for more information:

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Fitness Host for SUP TV, ACSM Certified Personal Trainer, PaddleFit Coach Training Instructor, & Certified Nutrition Coach.