Research is happening every day to determine the positive impacts of exercise for Parkinson’s patients. Recently, the largest-ever clinical trial completed by the Parkinson’s Outreach Project discovered that people living with Parkinson’s who completed at least two and one-half hours of exercise each week had a more positive quality of life than those who didn’t exercise. For this reason, many neurologists now recommend exercise to Parkinson’s patients.
Another study completed by the University of Southern California found that Parkinson’s patients that exercised were able to “move more normally” than non-exercising counterparts. It’s possible, the researchers believe, that exercise helps the brain to create new connections and maintain old connections normally subject to degeneration by Parkinson’s Disease.
FitClub is turning high-level scientific research into real life for people living with Parkinson’s Disease. This week, FitClub caught up with its own certified trainer, Max, to learn how regular exercise is having a real-life impact at FitClub.
Max is certified to work with patients that are living with Parkinson’s, MS, and other neurological disorders. Through that work, Max has been working closely with Jan Baird, a Parkinson’s patient for about two years. This working relationship is a wonderful example of the impact of an exercise routine on minimizing the effects of Parkinson’s Disease. When starting work with a Parkinson’s patient, Max says it’s important to start at the beginning. For example, when Max first started working with Jan, she couldn’t jump and found that one leg was weaker than the other. Through a combination of strength training, cardio workouts, and balance exercises, Jan began jumping rope and her physical fitness began to rapidly improve.
Max believes that the key to Jan’s success is consistency. Parkinson’s patients meet three or four days each week to participate in Rock Steady Boxing and two additional days to build strength and balance. Movement in general helps to reduce the rigidity of muscles common to Parkinson’s Disease. Each participant starts where he or she is and tries to improve each day. Max estimates that patients begin to see improvement for themselves in about two weeks of consistent work. While the doctors may warn Parkinson’s patients that every day they can expect to get worse, Max believes every day these patients can get better!
The key, according to Max, is to use movement that incorporates arms, legs, and voices. For example, Max may have his group walk while using their arms and shout, the combination of which combats the degenerative effects of Parkinson’s Disease.
Max initially heard many people claim, “I can’t do that,” until Max warned it belonged on a t-shirt to remind everyone that how often it’s said. Jan came through with a box of orange “I can’t do that” t-shirts. That’s how it is with this group, Max says. Not only is the physical effect of exercise changing their brains and improving their muscles, fitness, and balance, but they are all benefitting from one another. The class is more than a group exercise class and has quickly morphed into a supportive community where everyone is working on individual goals at the same time. There’s a shared benefit to engaging in the process of making yourself well with others facing the same challenges.
It’s true that this group is benefitting from engaging with Max, but Max knows that it’s a mutual experience. “There’s not a lot of time on this planet—I like helping people while I’m here.”
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with a neurological disorder, it’s never too soon to start improving. Check in with FitClub and Max and begin to improve each day.