Paul Green fights Parkinson's disease every day. Hard. The 87-year-old Westport man rows, walks and lifts at Saugatuck Rowing Club in his daily battle to ward off the effects of the disease. "I am trying to show people you can handle Parkinson's,'' Green said. "And vigorous exercise is the key."
Green will row in the USRowing Masters National Championships this weekend in Pennsauken, N.J. He will compete in a double scull with 81-year-old Mike Pettee and in a single scull. Green will be the regatta's oldest participant. "I think that's my biggest claim to fame," he said.
Exercise, particularly rowing, has been Green's salvation in his battle against Parkinson's. He walks on a treadmill for 30 to 40 minutes, then does strength and flexibility exercises. He rows several times per week for 45 minutes to an hour. His only concessions to his condition are a heart monitor to ensure that he doesn't over-exert and a coach to monitor safety. "Once in a while, I try to sneak out on my own," Green said.
He said he finds tremendous support at Saugatuck. Everyone seems to know him and help him get around.
Green, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's 17 years ago, finds conflicting medical advice on the benefits of exercise in slowing the progress of Parkinson's. But he is steadfast in believing that exercise and proper medication can delay its debilitating effects. "If I didn't do the exercises, I would end up in a wheelchair,'' Green said. "At least this way I feel like I'm fighting back."
Green said it's not enough for him to fight; he wants others to join him.
He has created a website that tells Parkinson's sufferers what they can do to battle back. "Our big mission is to spread the word," Green said.
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