Power walking improves PD!

I was diagnosed with PD over five years ago and have resisted taking much medication, preferring to investigate other methods of staying mobile. Eight weeks ago, having reread John Pepper's book 'Reverse Parkinson's Disease' I set out to power walk for 20 minutes. Looking back, no one would have recognised my pace as 'power walking', but I did it three times a week, gradually increasing my session duration over the next few weeks as I felt able, until I am now walking for 45 minutes, covering a distance of 2.75 miles which is about 3.7 miles an hour! I'm staggered that I'm doing a pace I wouldn't have dreamed of last year. On top of that my voice surprises me with its strength and people keep remarking that I look better than I have for a long time. All I say is TRY IT! Start with ten minutes, pushing yourself just beyond your comfort zone, then, after two weeks (six sessions), try 15 minutes etc. I'm so glad I started power walking. Try it!

57 Replies

  • Hi Daphne. I am so pleased to hear this good news. You are one of many people now doing this. Your health improvement is very encouraging and an inspiration to others.

    Perhaps you can tell us more about yourself and your Pd history?

    Good luck and thank you

    John Pepper

  • I'm sure John will answer but if I could throw in my understanding... I think the cognitive focus needs to be on the 'how' of walking. Thereby using neuroplasticity to develop a good walking style controlled by another area of the brain. I also understand the benefits of fast walking to come from distance and time as well as speed. I'm not sure quick, relatively short bursts work! I sympathise with the difficulty motivating oneself without an apparent goal. I've never been energetic or sporty but am finding the idea of being able to reduce meds by walking and thereby having some healthy control over my PD, motivation enough.

  • Hi 59 and10. Sorry I have not been able to respond to your question but I was precluded from getting onto the website for over a week. I must remember to pay my subs quicker next week. You are obviously an impatient person (Not criticizing!) What can be more tangible than being able to reverse your symptoms? They take many years to manifest themselves and also appear to take an equally long time to go away. It took me 10 years to reverse my symptoms!

    I wish it were possible to play a game of golf and also produce GDNF in the brain at the same time, but it isn't. It has to be a prolonged effort and not in fits and starts.

    So why not take a golf cart and play golf on the in-between days and get the best of both worlds?

    I had to give up playing golf over 30 years ago because I was always standing too close to the ball, after I had hit it (I missed it more often than not and could never hit it fair and square on any of the others). It took me 1 and a half hours to play 3 holes that final day and I lost 5 balls getting that far.

    The concentration has to be on the quality of the actual steps you are taking, while you are walking. If you merely will your legs to move you achieve nothing. You have to mentally lift one leg off the ground at a time and pace as far forward as you can with that leg and mentally place that heel on the ground as the leg straightens itself. That takes a lot of doing, consciously.

    Whether you are aware of it or not, you never normally have to think of the actual leg movements because they are normally controlled by the subconscious brain, but that area of the brain can no longer communicate properly with the rest of the body. You now have to consciously take control of your walking and handwriting. Sorry about that but that is the truth and you cannot change it.


  • Hi 59and10. You are doing an incredible amount of exercise but your symptoms appear to be getting slowly worse at least, compared to others.

    From what you are telling me, you are coping with the Pd and getting on with your life, which is what I am doing.

    My movement symptoms have not gone away, but they are now at a much lower level. My other symptoms are always present, but do not stop me from enjoying my life.

    The dyskinesia is caused by the levodopa, as you probably already know. It is not a Pd symptom. If you were to reduce your levodopa intake to the level at which you have no dyskinesia, you would probably find that you would then be very slow, but I tend to believe that within a short period of time, that would get better.

    Are you aware that none of the Pd medications does anything to slow down the progression of your Pd? That means that whether you take any Pd medications or not, your condition will progress at exactly the same rate. If I am correct in what I have just said, which I am sure I am, then we have to ask ourselves, "Why do we take the Pd medication?" The answer is that they are all designed to temporarily mask one or two of the symptoms. If that is so, then you have to ask yourself, "What symptoms of mine have they masked and for how long?" If they have not masked any of your symptoms, then why are you still taking them?

    As we both have been doing a lot of exercise, while taking Pd medication, the progression of the Pd has, in your case, been a lot slower than others. In my case the movement symptoms have got better. The only difference that I see between us is the type of exercise we both do. In my case, I gave up the workouts in the gym in 1994 and took up fast walking. That appears to be the big difference.

    In Dr Beth Fisher's address to the 1st World Parkinson's Congress held in Washington DC in 2006 she said that the best type of exercise to repair the damaged brain cells was FAST WALKING. I had already been doing just that for over twelve years. Was that just good luck. or what?

    The big mystery to me is why have we not all been told, long ago that we should all be doing FAST WALKING?

    Good luck!


  • Hi 59and10. I am impressed by your story. Would you like to contact me on my email? My address is johnpepper@telkomsa.net.

    Kind regards


  • John- I just posted on the forum asking if anyone knows where to buy a harness for making my mom walk on a treadmill. I have bought her the theracycle - but it would be great to have her harnessed while walking on the treadmill also . She has had many falls - last one was 2 months, along with the emotional distress caused by my uncle (her brother ) passing away - that she has gotten much worse since I last saw her - that was 5 months ago,

    Also, there are special shoes for parkinsons - laser shoes etc , any input on that will be great too

  • Hi mymomhaspd. You are a very caring person, and I admire what you are doing for your mom. I live in South Africa and cannot help you with equipment recommendations as they will not meet your requirements. That includes shoes etc.

    Kind regards

  • I used to powerwalk before PD. I love it then. I will do it again.

    Thanks for the reminder!!

    Hugs, Eva

  • Go girl! Not too far or fast to start with. Build up gradually. Remember to lift those feet and swing those arms.

  • Thanks Dap :)

    How is your Sunday going?

  • Omg I just came across this. Did u ever imagine that in 2 years you would be saved from PD? Anything is possible.

  • I m always afraid of falling but will try to walk not sure how "powerful" at first. My first problem is the Parkinson which my balance is on and off, then I need a Knee replaced. So canes are problematic when walking fast.

  • 'Powerful' is a relative word. Whatever is slightly stretching you is 'powerful' for you. One of the benefits I've read about is better balance. Go careful though to start with. Confidence, strength and better balance will come in time.

  • Kadie,

    I have similar problems with balance, however my knees are OK(ish). I have been 'freezing' over the past 2 years & I now use an ApoGo injection pen when needed. Last week I had 2 big improvements: a friend helped me up the steep bank in our garden so I could visit the grave of my late mother-in-law (I hadn't been up there for 2 yrs) & she introduced me to Nordic walking poles. Using these will add to the fitness value of any walking I manage & it is a confidence booster.

  • Thanks for bringing up Nordic poles. They would be great whene needed!!


  • Hi Kadie. Freezing occurs because the subconscious brain is no longer able to connect properly to your limbs. This is the non-medical term for what happens. I have found that I can consciously take control over my walking, and bringing food to my mouth etc.

    What do I mean by conscious control? Well, let me take this slowly. You may find that you are shuffling and/or not swinging your arms. If so, I want you to stand still and consciously swing your arms as high as you can. If you do this, you will find that you are able to swing them very high. Then ask yourself why you don't swing them when you walk. It is a communication problem and not a muscular problem!

    The same goes for your walking. If you get someone to hold your arm and you consciously stand up on your toes, you will find that you are probably able to stand up quite well. So why can't you push up on your toes while you walk?

    Then, while someone is still holding your arm, place your weight on your right leg and lift your left leg up in front of you as high as you can. My guess is that you can get it up quite high. Then stand on your left leg and lift your right leg up. The same will happen then. So why do you take short steps when you walk?

    The answer is still a communication problem!

    Next! While someone is holding your arm, so that you don't fall, I want you to consciously think about putting your weight on your right leg and lift your left leg slightly and put your leg out in front of you as far as you can and CONSCIOUSLY PLANT THE LEFT HEEL ONTO THE GROUND! Then do the same with the right leg and heel.

    Normally, you WILL yourself to walk, and it happens. But with Pd it does not happen anymore. Get used to that fact!

    You can very quickly learn how to walk consciously and successfully. Just keep practicing it, every day, every time you walk. You soon get used to it.

    Good luck


  • Looking through old posts and found thus.so I should use my conscious brain to walk instead of my muscles. Thank you John

  • Thanks for this Catlou! Are you able to tell us what the walking has done for you?

  • I'm just getting ready to start I fall a lot I have to be careful

  • When you are walking, do you concentrate mainly on your feet or is your mind occupied with where you are going?

  • I concentrate on not falling and balancing mostly

  • There's the problem! If you are walking properly your feet will be in the right position so that your bady weight is on thee foot you have just stepped onto, that is in balance and you don't fall.

    If somebody took a video of you walking, from behind, you would see what you are doing wrong by the way you weave along an irregular path.

  • Start out slowly Katie:)

  • Hello again Katie;

    Go to YouTube and put in 'how to power walk'. They have several great videos on how to do it!!


  • Thank you, so much has been happening here. Husband been gone only 2 months and 3 days. My world is so quiet these days, I miss our daily chats. our coming and goings, seems we were always busy.

  • Kadie

    You are a brave and inspirational woman. Keep going, you are doing so well.

  • Thank you for the kind words, I m just learning what a new normal can be, just like when I first learned I had Parkinson it felt so unfair. I just keep my head above the junk , helping others the best I can, when I m not thinking to much about myself life seems to move better.

  • My mother lost her husband of 60 years about 1 1/2 year ago.

    They did every thing together too. She can barly stand it that he is gone.

    I find that when I think of others, I feel better too.

    Keep up the good work Katie.

    Hugs and much love from Eva


  • Dear Kadie,

    I'm so sorry about your loss of your husband. I can only imagine the huge hole that must leave in your life. I would be so lost without my husband. I hope that you have friends and family nearby for support and that your pain begins to ease with time. Bless your heart (as we used to say in the South),


  • thank you

  • I'm on a starter dose of Madopar (3x50mg) and a daily Azilect and I was diagnosed over five years ago. My first aim is not to increase this dosage. Friends of mine further on in their exercising have in fact reduced their medication. The research articles talk of 'forced exercise' benefitting the brain by encouraging neuroplasticity - the brains ability to change and compensate, by helping the brain to use dopamine more efficiently, and by enhancing the brain's ability to produce tropic factors which may slow or halt the degenerative process in PD. It's a no brainer! Try it!

  • That could be 100/50 or 50/12.5. Madopar. :). Yes I do exercise and am in my 8 th year post diagnosis and do read the scientific literature on PD including exercise. I'm not sure I have read those articles that discuss neuroplasticity yet.

  • Hi Hikoi. Have you not read Dr Norman Doidge's book, "The Brain's Way of Healing" yet? It is very fascinating reading.

    Kind regards


  • John I listened to him on the radio and he appears to make the facts fit his story so I lost faith. He said that "John when diagnosed was put on l dopa and initially his responses were very good. However when he started getting side effects he was switched to another drug".

    I understood you tried l dopa much later and it had no effect.

    I doubt anyone thinks that drugs will cure PD, we know they only help to control symptoms just as no medication will cure diabetes.

  • Hi Hikoi. When you say you 'lost faith', do you mean in me , in whom I did not think you had any faith, or in Dr Doidge? What he said was true. I was given Sinemet and Simatrel during the first two years after diagnosis, but i had obviously forgotten this fact when I wrote my book 10 years later. He phoned me one night last year to check this out with me before his book could go into print. I argued with this because I was absolutely sure that I only ever took Eldepryl the whole 10 years. He sent me a copy of the neurologists notes, of which my family GP also had a copy. I had to concede this point and change what I said in my book for future editions. My memory is bad but I did not think it was sooo bad.

    Yes, I was put onto Sinemet again by my neurologist in 2001, when I was feeling so much better. He later said I needed to start taking Sinemet because I had already had Pd for 9 years and needed to increase my medication.

    At that time I was well aware that Sinemet causes dyskinesia, which I was determined not to allow under any circumstances. So I came off the Sinemet after 3 months because it did nothing positive for me. How could it? I was walking properly by then and I was able to smile again and my speech was clear and my voice was strong.

    The effect of his putting me onto Sinemet was so terrible that I went into depression. I could not think what he had seen that day to make him want me to take Sinemet? Was I getting worse, when I knew that I had got a lot better? When I spoke to my neurologist on my next visit after he did that, I told him that I had taken myself off the Sinemet and he just looked at me and said nothing.

    He is a good doctor and I find it hard to believe that he would have put me onto a serious drug like Sinemet, knowing the serious side effects it has, if he had not found something that told him that my condition was getting worse. This question has haunted me ever since. Dr Doidge did speak to this neurologist and I am quite sure he would have asked him about this incident. Dr Doidge was never prepared to tell me anything that anybody said in his interviews, which is quite correct. So this will remain a mystery to me.

    You know that I think that it is not in the interests of drug companies to look for a cure for anything, hence there have been no cures found for any chronic illness that I can think of, and I don't think there ever will be. We have to get used to that fact of life.

    Dr Doidge spoke to me last week and told me in no uncertain terms to STOP THINKING THAT NEUROLOGISTS EVERYWHERE ARE DOING EVERYTHING THEY CAN TO STOP MY STORY FROM BEING BELIEVED OUT THERE. I feel sure that he knows that certain neurologists might feel insecure with this threat to their earnings but I am also sure in my own mind that what he has said is true and I will no longer propagate that idea. I apologize for having said this on many occasions and will see that I never do it again, believing that it is NOT TRUE.

    I hope this puts your mind at rest.

    Kind regards


  • Hi Hikoi. I have ordered the book and look froward to reading it. You obviously don't like Dr Doidge. What has he done to you/

    Kind regards


  • That's great!

    Get some good shoes that will protect feet and knees!

  • I am 80. Till five years back my speed was 4 MPH but with age it has decreased to 3MPH. Can some one enlighten me what is Power Walking?

    Just moving hands and a brisk walk or more?

  • Power walking is how I describe walking at a pace a little faster than you would chose. So that you're breathing well, could just hold a conversation and are glowing when you finish! Some research specifies raising the heart rate to between 60%-80% of your maximum heart rate. 'Maximum' is always 220 less your age. For you at 80, 'maximum' is therefore 140 bpm and 60-80% is 82-112 bpm. Hopefully I've worked that out correctly! You sound as if you are already walking fast!

  • Kanu-check out how to power walk on youtube.

    They have some great videos on power walking.



  • Thanks Dap for your prompt response. Yes I still walk but no longer like before. I walk on about four days between three to four miles. My PD is in control and manage it with Physio Therapy, Occupatiional Therapy and Yoga.

    I also control it with diet and exercise and without medications. If intresteed to know further write to me at kanukamdar@gmail.com.

  • Hi Kanu. I would recommend that you walk only every 2nd day so that your muscles have time to recover from the exercise, otherwise they tend to eat themselves up in order to get the energy they need to function. I will email you on this.


  • I don't want to deter anyone from walking, power or otherwise, but the uncomfortable fact remains that, in spite of lots of fast walking (4 mph) both before PD and in the 10 years since diagnosis at 49, my symptoms progress, in spite of taking 1mg rasagiline, 16mg ropinirole (slow release), 300mg levodopa (in Stalevo) per day.

    For instance, in the last week my walking has been in miles per day: 4, 11, 4, 4, 1, 4, 1.

    So, walk because it's fun, walk because it helps get you around, walk because it makes you fitter, walk because it helps you socialize, walk because it may increase the effectiveness of your drugs, walk because it may reduce your symptoms. But, if you're lucky enough for the underlying disease to progress more slowly or even to reverse, take this as good fortune.


  • Two thoughts...

    You will never know how you would have been now if you hadn't walked. And...

    Most research advocates rest too, that is walking every other day.

  • Dap

    I think johntpm writes wise thoughts. The problem I find in any of these discussions is the idea that one solution fits all. This is not one condition to be treated in just one way. How can we compare someone with PD that developed at 70 or 80yrs to someone who has PD in their 20's or 30's. Someone with tremor dominant PD with someone with stiffness dominant.

    Now the suggestion is that Johntpm may not be getting optimum results because he doesn't follow a set regime of resting between days (you refer to research but where are your references to this please) . Rather than the thought that he could be better perhaps with 10 years experience with this condition he actually is doing remarkably well. After all the regime you are advocating has yet to have more than one person who long term has claimed to successfully reversed PD.

    We all know exercise is a necessary part of PD treatment, power walking however good is only one option. NanCyclist has a post here on improving her symptoms through cycling for example. The research literature talks of both strength and flexibility exercise regimes as necessary.

  • Good points made here. Unfortunately there are lesser characters on this site that obsessively preach a routine that works for them as a cure for ALL ('if it doesn't work for you too, you must be doing something wrong - try harder!'). Despite the 'special' character/s who see the world through the narrow lens of personal experience, the fact remains that every person has their own, unique form of PD with their own unique set of strengths and limitations.

    Recent studies do indicate, however, that a VARIETY of aerobic routines (biking, swimming, running, walking, dancing, boxing, etc, etc) practiced regularly are naturally more conducive to health, flexibility, and NEUROGENESIS than any single activity (like fast-walking) repeated day after day. By virtue of the random challenges to one's proprioceptive senses, the human capacity for neurogenesis is increased presenting a tremendous new avenue of possibility...

  • Hi Johnt. I am worried that you are walking too much and too often. Your goal should be to walk as fast as YOU CAN for one hour, only 3 TIMES A WEEK. That will give your muscles chance to recover from the walking.

    If you walk as fast as you can you produce a substance in the brain called GDNF. That repairs the damaged brain cells and you start to get better. However, if you don't walk fast enough you don't produce the GDNF. If you start out walking as fast as you can for only 10 minutes every 2nd day, and every 2nd week you add 5 minutes to your time, and continue in that way until you get to the magic 1 hour you will find that you feel a lot better, stronger and a lot fitter. Try it!

    I also want to remind you that none of the Pd medications does anything to slow down the progression of the Pd. They are all designed to temporarily hide one or two of the symptoms. Don't think for one minute that they are helping you to get better. They ARE NOT!

    Good luck

    John Pepper

  • I developed low blood pressure 90/50 due to PD.

    It made me light headed!!

    Gatoraid and coffee was the prescription before we try any drug.

    After a week on coffee and Gatoraid, my bloodpressure is up, and the kightheadednesss gone :)!!!!

    Give me coffee!!!

    3c in the morning in rapid succession does the trick for me!!

    Hugs from Eva

  • Wonderful Eva, but Oh to have such bladder control!!, Can you feel my envy :).

  • :)

  • My tremors get worse if I drink regular coffee or eat chocolate. Does anyone else notice this?

  • Of course any fluid helps with raising BP too.

  • Hi Marion. When I gave up drinking tea and coffee my tremors almost disappeared altogether. I do not have a resting tremor I have the essential tremor. I hake when I am trying to do any fine motor functions like fastening a button. However, when I am under stress, everything is a lot worse. So watch your stress levels!


  • Do you have BOTH essential tremor and PD, John? Is that possible?


  • Hi Leilani. My neurologist, who diagnosed my Pd, described my tremor as 'Essential Tremor'. I am not aware that it happens in isolation.


  • Know you are on the right track. I too agree with John Pepper and have gradually reduced my intake od sinemet to of zero. Walking has improved my gait and also has done no end of good to my mental state. For me walking on the beach has proved the most beneficial activity of all.

    Great to hear positive outlook

  • Yours was just the comment I needed to see today. I've begun to reduce my Ldopa but have friends around who warn me I won't have the energy to exercise! I'd love to hear more about your story (d_m_bryan@hotmail.com)

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