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Exercise Is King: A former skier, golfer, and tennis player, 83-year-old Henry King remains active in different ways after a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease.

Bolster, Mary

doi: 10.1097/01.NNN.0000513030.63430.ee
Departments: Pictures of You

An avid athlete, Henry King remains active in different ways after a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease.

Photograph by Marius Bugge

For more about Parkinson's disease, go to http://bit.ly/NN-PD-Basics.

When did you first notice symptoms of Parkinson's disease?

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I loved playing tennis and I began having difficulty serving the ball. Also, my handwriting, which usually flowed easily, became very cramped and small. Within a year I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. That was about 15 years ago. Over time, I had more difficulty walking in crowded places like supermarkets and football stadiums. I remember going to an athletic event with a friend, and when I tried to leave I couldn't move. I was totally stuck. I needed help getting up and out of the arena.

How did you deal with the diagnosis?

Initially it wasn't scary because life went on as usual. Over the next three to four years. I continued to ski and play golf and tennis. It was such a slow progression that I began to think it was no big deal. Gradually my symptoms got worse, and I had to stop playing tennis. I was able to keep playing golf using a cart, but you can't take a cart onto a putting green so I eventually stopped that as well.

Did you reach out to the Parkinson's disease community?

For the first seven or eight years my wife and children and I would attend the Parkinson's Unity Walk in Central Park in New York, where we heard speakers such as Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali. I remember being amazed by how many people were there.

How has your exercise changed since your diagnosis?

I'm mostly in a wheelchair now so I don't play tennis or golf or ski anymore, but I still exercise almost daily. I use weight machines and bikes at the gym and do water exercise. Regular exercise motivates me to get out of bed every morning.

What has been the reaction of friends and family?

My friends have been very loyal. My wife, whom I married in 1959, has been very supportive and is my primary caregiver. I've also been moved by the willingness of strangers to help. When they see I'm having a problem, they come up and volunteer at just the right time.

How do you stay positive?

Early on in my disease I participated in a clinical trial. I found out later I was given a placebo, but the experience was terrific. I felt I was doing something proactive. I tried to find another study to participate in, but most specified that they wanted people in earlier stages of the disease.

I also try to raise awareness about Parkinson's disease. Like many people, I had never heard of it. That was my attitude after my diagnosis. What is this disease? No one I knew had it. Michael J. Fox is a wonderful example. I find him inspiring.

© 2017 American Academy of Neurology