Stefano and the others: by bike from Ventimiglia to Barcelona to overcome the limits of Parkinson’s

Stefano and the others: by bike from Ventimiglia to Barcelona to overcome the limits of Parkinson's


They like to be called parkinsonauts, there are 11 of them, they have been living with Parkinson’s for several years, they love sports and they are cycling through Italy, France and Spain: 800 kilometers in 9 days to participate in the Bike WPC Ventimiglia-Barcelona, ​​a cycling initiative of the most extensive Bike to Barcelona project promoted by the American World Parkinson Coalition (WPC). Leaving from Ventimiglia last Saturday, Samantha, Karin, Marco, Angelo, Ger, Dario, Mauro, Daniele, Fulvio, Edgardo and Roberto, with their companions Mara and Max, will arrive in Barcelona on Sunday 2 July to join the cycling teams from all over the world at the opening party of the 6th World Parkinson Congress (scheduled from 4 to 7 July). The goal of this enterprise of theirs, organized in Italy by Parkinson & Sport (the association of which the 11 parkinsonians are members) is on the one hand to testify how physical activity, sport and sharing can improve psychophysical well-being and quality of life of those suffering from this pathology, on the other, to raise awareness of the increase in cases among younger people, even under 50 years of age.

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Growing numbers in Italy and around the world

In fact, there are 5 million people in the world with Parkinson’s, of which about 300,000 in Italy. Estimates say that these numbers are also destined to increase in our country, reaching around 6,000 new cases each year over the next 15 years, half of which are of working age. Although there are numerous therapies that allow you to manage symptoms even in an advanced stage, to date there is no cure for this pathology and there is an increasing number of scientific evidences demonstrating the benefits of physical activity in slowing down its progression and improving the quality of life of the patients.

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Coping with illness through sport

“We are called Parkinsonauti because we don’t like Parkinsonians: the word Parkinsonauta leaves you the freedom to travel with your imagination, it recalls the figure of the astronaut, of an explorer of his own pathology in search of something that can make a better life by facing the disease. Parkinsonian, on the other hand, gives the idea of ​​a road already marked out, of a destiny already written – he explains to us Stephen Ghidotti, founder and president of Parkinson & Sport, triathlon athlete who has been living with the disease since 2017, i.e. since he was 55 years old – The first symptoms for me were depression and apathy. In the morning I got out of bed unmotivated, I lost my smile for no reason. In fact, my life was serene both at work and in the family. Naturally, it was difficult to imagine that they could already be the signs of the disease – explains Ghidotti – What instead made me alarmed, as usually happens with this pathology, was, a few years later, the first sign of tremor at rest, which then the diagnosis followed”.

Parkinson's team

Parkinson’s team

When it became clear to him that he had to somehow live with Parkinson’s, Stefano, who has always been a great sports fan, immediately understood that sport could be an important tool for dealing with it. “I understood that through sport I could be the first defender of my body – he continues – and I continued to practice it with even more attention. Not only that: I have tried to explore the relationship between sport and disease by participating in congresses, constantly informing myself on how physical exercise could slow down the decline in mobility and quality of life in general. I always say that Parkinson’s is a disease that allows us to do a lot for ourselves – he continues – and it is not necessary to be or have been an athlete to exercise. Aerobic motor activity, preferably intense, or even taking regular walks can be of great help. Of course, always taking into account the stage of the disease and under the supervision of specialists”. If Parkinson’s actually acts on the flexor muscles tending to close, working on the joints and posture with adequate motor activity becomes essential to carry out opening movements, opposed to the action of the disease.

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In addition to physical, the resulting benefits are also and above all psychic. “The effects of motor activity on a psychic level can help prevent the diagnosis from being followed by a tendency to isolate oneself and project one’s fears onto the future – adds Ghidotti – Proof of this is several people I know, affected by Parkinson’s since they were young, who have now been living with the disease for twenty years, and who, precisely because of this condition, have managed to try their hand at sports activities that they never would have thought they would be able to do. Or to accomplish feats such as 800 kilometers on a bicycle”.

Pedaling to break down limits and prejudices

Until Sunday 2 July it is possible to follow the journey of the Parkinsonauti towards Barcelona on the WPC website and on the Parkinson & Sport social channels. Prior to this initiative, the association also organized 3 Bike riding for Parkinson’s Italy: the first from Pavia to Rome, the second from Turin to Venice and the third from the Gran San Bernardo to Pavia. “All journeys in search of one’s limits – concludes Ghidotti – undertaken to break down those borders that the disease would like to impose on us, facing fears and prejudices, ready for the sweat and effort that ‘Mr. P’ don’t really like them”.


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