Exercise helps Charlotte patient fight Parkinson's disease

Exercise helps Charlotte patient fight Parkinson's disease

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by MICHELLE BOUDIN / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @MichelleBoudin

WCNC.com

Posted on September 26, 2013 at 6:50 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 26 at 6:53 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Michael J. Fox is coming back to a full-time TV gig for the first time since his Parkinson’s diagnosis prompted him to scale back.

The show will not shy away from Parkinson’s -- instead the character he plays suffers from the disease.

NBC Charlotte checked in with some local patients and learned some of them are making incredible strides in dealing with the diagnosis.

Seventy-seven-year-old Betty Cross looks like anyone else at the gym.

“It makes me feel really good and I get really upset if I can't come,” she says.

For Betty, it's not about looking good, it's about feeling good. At times it's a matter of simply being able to get around.

“If I miss a week of coming, I get to where I can't walk good again. I stumble,” she says

Seven years ago she went to the doctor with an earache. She was quickly diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

“It was horrible because I had worked with Parkinson’s patients when I was young and it wasn’t a very pleasant experience, and I knew I was going to be really crippled.”

She was, at first, in a wheelchair.

“We used to go to the Braves games and I had to be in a wheelchair to get to the seat, and last time I went I didn’t have to.

She no longer needs the wheelchair -- not even a walker.

“We believe the key to reversing some of the symptoms and potentially even some of the damage in the brain is going to be found within exercise,” says Dr. Sanjay Iyer.

Doctors say vigorous exercise, meaning working at a higher intensity than is necessarily comfortable, can literally reverse the effects of Parkinson’s.

“Probably 15 years ago we used to tell patients if you can exercise safely and not hurt yourself then it’s not a bad idea. Today we’re actually encouraging it as one of our first line treatments,” Iyer added.

The premiere of The Michael J. Fox Show airs Thursday night on NBC Charlotte.

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