Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Reality-TV winner delivers dose of positivity

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One of Canada's newest celebrities is about to pay his prescription for victory forward at the city's best-known rehab fitness gym.

Tim Hague Sr. won The Amazing Race Canada along with his son, Tim Hague Jr., last week, and he's been talking about his time on the reality-TV show and life after winning the $500,000 grand prize.

At the Reh Fit Centre on Monday, the focus was firmly on how Hague can use his newfound celebrity status to inspire others like himself. He won't be a personal trainer at Reh Fit, but will help out.

Research breakthroughs are being rolled into a new program at the Reh-Fit Centre to help middle-aged people with Parkinson's with a combination of cardiovascular and stretching exercises that can be tailored to their abilities. It launches Oct. 21.

Hague, a 48-year-old diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease three years ago, is expected to take on the mantle of a role model at the Reh-Fit Centre. He credits an exercise program he and his buddy, another man with Parkinson's, created for his reality-TV victory, he said.

Three years ago, Hague said he couldn't have imagined being a role model any more than he could have predicted the outcome of the TV reality show.

Always athletic, Hague said he thought his diagnosis meant the end of an active life until he had a heart-to-heart talk with his doctor.

"I was afraid he was going to tell me I had to stop all this stuff," said Hague. "Like you'll trip and fall and smack your head; something like that."

Cycling and running kept Hague, a registered nurse at St. Boniface General Hospital, fit for years.

But the degenerative neurological disease robs victims of their ability to control movement, and Hague had watched it kill his dad.

A jerky gait, tremors, ticks and a paralysis-like stiffening of joints eventually renders sufferers unable to walk or eat. Parkinson's is incurable and affects more than 6,000 Manitobans.

For Hague, the turning point was the surprise his doctor had for him after the bleak diagnosis.

"He said if there is any one thing I can convince you to do, it's to become a fanatic about your exercise... it was a prescription," Hague said.

In interviews since he and his son landed their Amazing Race win, Hague's talked about how he didn't let Parkinson's get in the way of the made-for-TV contest, which criss-crossed the country and culminated with last Monday's broadcast.

"It doesn't mean you can't still compete or have to go quietly into the night," he said.

The Reh-Fit program is believed to be the first in Canada to offer an automatic referral to exercise after a Parkinson's diagnosis, a credit to a partnership with Winnipeg's Movement Disorders Clinic and Hague.

Although the majority of people with Parkinson's are older, a growing number are like Hague, diagnosed in the prime of life between ages 21 to 40.

"It's funny (because) exercise is one of those things that has been around for a long time. Now research is showing it does help delay symptoms and it even has an effect on the neurons," Reh-Fit CEO Sue Boreskie said Monday.

Neurons are nerve cells and the communication links in the human body.Their degeneration marks the decline in patients who suffer from movement disorders like Parkinson's.

Patients who do three hours a week of cardiovascular exercise for a year can expect to score 30 per cent better on a medical scale that measures the severity of Parkinson's symptoms compared with sedentary patients, Winnipeg neurologist Dr. Douglas Hobson, the founder of the Movement Disorders Clinic, said.

Hague said research findings like that open doors that once slammed shut for people like him.

"As Reh-Fit has started saying, and I like it, 'Exercise is medicine.' It works. It helps our outlook, our attitude. It helps our soul and spirit and the literature is starting to show it will help our Parkinson's," he said.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 24, 2013 B3

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Updated on Tuesday, September 24, 2013 at 8:19 AM CDT: Replaces photo

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