By Trish Bogucki
One of the most frustrating aspects of NPH was the curtailment of physical activities. Before NPH I was an avid gym goer and loved the Advanced Step class. Before that I was a line dancer and folk dancer- I even performed with a Yugoslav folk dance troupe in NYC. When NPH made it difficult to walk unaided most of those fun activities went out the window. I now regard my exercise program as a critical component to my recovery so I will outline what I did before and after shunting and what I am doing today that has helped me so much!
Before shunt surgery:
When I was in the worst shape the elliptical was my best friend: the movement is gentle but aerobic, and I could hold on the whole time. The recumbent bike was also a staple of my routine and even after I had foot surgery the doctor let me return to this for cardio just a few weeks after surgery. During this period, I focused more time on upper body and ab work since they did not require balance.
For more than a year after my shunt surgery I went to physical therapy three times a week, and the primary tool there was the Alter G treadmill – it is a wonderful invention that helped me learn to walk again without the fear of falling. Once they told me I could graduate from the Alter G to a regular treadmill I knew my time at PT was coming to an end. PT also taught me the benefits of vestibular training and I still do my eye exercises every morning to prevent vertigo.
Once I left PT I signed up for weekly personal training sessions at my gym. My trainer was extremely creative and he not only taught me how to use all the strength machines he taught me some great balance exercises as well.
I did finally achieve my stretch goal of going back to the Advanced Step Class after a two-year absence. I was very nervous but after about 10 minutes I knew I could do it and I started to relax. The class gave me a round of applause at the end (and then of course I dissolved).
It has been a year since I ended PT and I have continued to use my gym on a daily basis for cardio, strength and balance training. My neurosurgeon was very happy with the way I am walking and told me to keep doing what I am doing. A few months ago, I retired and joined two senior centers nearby and now enjoy their exercise programs (Jazzercise, Zumba and body toning) in addition to the gym. There is one class there that gives me both physical and cognitive benefits: line dancing. Learning and remembering the patterns is a real challenge and frequently the brain gives out before my legs do. Mastering the rather complex country western line dance patterns has become my new stretch goal – and I’m having a ball. I have learned about half a dozen dances so far and was told there are only 85 more to go!
I recommend finding an activity like this one to help you challenge both your mind and body, and if you can have fun while doing it and meet some nice folks too then you are as fortunate as I have been!