A Trainer’s Perspective on Exercise and Parkinson’s Disease
By Zach Curry, CPT
I have been working with clients who are living with Parkinson Disease for the past three years now. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go or how I was going to feel about it. All I had ever heard when it came to Parkinson’s was that it was a neurological disease like Alzheimer’s and dementia and that researchers were trying to find a causation and a cure.
Exercise and Parkinson
When I first started with my clients I was a bit timid, I mean after all these people had this disease that affected their motor skills and I didn’t want somebody getting hurt during one of my classes. However, the more I got into the class the more I realized that people living with Parkinson Disease are not looking to be coddled. They want to be pushed, they want to be challenged because they know that’s how they will improve. The more we worked out of our comfort zone (always thinking safety first) the more we improved. Not only were they working hard but they were consistent. They came to class at least three days a week; and when they left for vacation they would exercise on their own. Intensity and consistency seem to be the formula for success when it comes to exercise and Parkinson’s.
Benefits of Socializing
Exercise without a doubt is one of the most important factors for those living with PD who are seeking some relief. However, in addition to exercise one of the biggest factors I noticed for improving mood and overall well-being was camaraderie. Every time we get together I hear them asking each other about different symptoms someone may be dealing with, asking about each other’s family, discussing different research they may have read. They build each other up, they encourage each other to work hard, to put in a big effort and they even tease each other a little bit (only when they aren’t teasing their instructors though).
They aren’t just workout partners to each other, they are someone else they can depend on, someone they can go to when it feels like no one else truly understands what they are going through. It becomes so much more than just a fitness class, it becomes a place of relief. They are there for each other through the highs and the lows and for now, that’s what beating this disease is about. It’s about standing side by side and fighting it as one.
Medical Fitness for Parkinson Disease
If you have a loved one living with Parkinson Disease I highly suggest enrolling them into a fitness class, especially a class that is specific to Parkinson’s. It may not be a cure but it will improve their quality of life.
ExercisAbilities offers Parkinson Wellness Recovery Moves courses, PWR! Moves. These include a gentle chair-based PWR! Moves 1 class, a high-level PWR! Moves 2 class and PWR! Boxing. Classes are Monday through Friday. See ExercisABILITIESpt.org for schedule and call 507-259-7570 to schedule your free fitness assessment to get started.