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Jimmy Choi: Parkinson’s Warrior

Fitness in the Face of Parkinson’s Disease

Jimmy Choi noticed something was wrong when he couldn’t throw a baseball. “I couldn’t get it to go far. It kept landing only a few feet ahead of me,” he says.

He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive degenerative neurological disorder, at 27. He became depressed. He gained weight. He needed a cane to walk. Then, he fell down the stairs with his three-year-old son in his arms.

At the bottom of the stairs, Jimmy had a wakeup call.

“My family is my biggest inspiration — the kick in my pants,” he says. “Because of that moment, I realized I needed to be better for my family. I want to see my kids grow up and be successful. I want to show them that daddy never gives up; Daddy is going to keep pushing.”

Keep Pushing

“Pushing” is an understatement for Jimmy, who not only holds the Guinness World Record for the number of chest-to-ground burpees in one minute, but has also been a qualifier on “American Ninja Warrior” four times.

Jimmy travels the country using his celebrity to inspire others with Parkinson’s disease to embrace physical fitness to manage their symptoms. He tells them to exercise with a purpose. He challenges them to try new types of exercises, things that scare them. He is living proof that exercise can transform the lives of people with Parkinson’s disease.

“Exercise is imperative for someone with Parkinson’s disease,” says Linda Egan, PT, Parkinson’s Disease Program coordinator at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital. “It’s recommended that people with Parkinson’s disease exercise at least two and a half hours per week.”

Giving ― and Getting ― Inspiration

When searching for care, Jimmy sought a team that understood not just his disease, but also his ambitious plans. He came to the Northwestern Medicine Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center and found his fit.

“I’ve been to many movement disorder specialists over the years, but my care team at Northwestern Medicine goes above and beyond to understand my fitness goals and help me achieve them,” he says. “I’ve built a relationship with my care team that extends beyond the clinic. They embrace my craziness and even cheer me on.”

When Jimmy’s not planning his next fitness endeavor, he’s trying to keep up with his 11-year-old daughter. She’s currently ranked second in her age group in the “National Ninja League.”

“I’m extremely proud of her, and she’s helping me be stronger,” Jimmy says. “She will never know how much she inspires me, her old man, to be better.”

Parkinson's Warrior: Jimmy's Story
Parkinson's Warrior: Jimmy's Story

Jimmy used to walk with a cane. Now he’s making quick work of the warped wall on “American Ninja Warrior.”