PD Gladiators Co-Hosts “Living Well with Parkinson’s: Exercise” with the NPF

PD Gladiators co-hosted a symposium with the National Parkinson Foundation on Saturday, “Living Well with Parkinson’s: Exercise,” and the event was a huge success. A capacity crowd listened raptly to keynote speaker Emory’s Jorge Juncos, MD (a PD Gladiators director) make a clear and convincing case for exercise and physical therapy as primary treatments for Parkinson’s disease, based both on the emerging research on exercise and PD and his observations from years of practice with PD patients.

Fernando Cubillos of the NPF spoke about his organization’s Parkinson’s Outcomes Project, which has shown that people with Parkinson’s who exercise, no matter when they begin, experience a better quality of life than their counterparts who don’t exercise.

Emory physical therapist Amy Morse, DPT, explained a PT’s role in designing an exercise program for individual PD patients as well as the importance of establishing an ongoing relationship with a PT who specializes in Parkinson’s immediately after diagnosis to work on impairments that may or may not be apparent to the patient.

Dr. Joe Nocera, PhD, an Emory research scientist with a special interest in exercise and PD rounded out the presentations by the experts with an examination of the types and amount of exercise people with PD should engage in. He generally recommended choosing activities that you enjoy and are likely to stick with but suggested following the guidelines by the American College of Sports Medicine and other authoritative agencies on fitness when deciding how much exercise you need. (See our article “Crafting Your Personal Exercise Routine” for details on these guidelines.) Dr. Nocera noted that it was important to choose activities that provide sufficient cardio-respiratory, strengthening and balance exercise.

Instructors in the PD Gladiators Metro Atlanta Fitness Network then energized the crowd with demonstrations of their PD-specific classes, moderated by Drs. Morse and Nocera, who added expert commentary about the scientific research supporting the benefits of the various group exercise classes.

In a panel discussion about the importance of adding neuromotor activities to your exercise routine, Dawn Benson focused on proper breathing techniques in Yoga, Lori Trachtenberg engaged the audience in a lively demonstration of Ageless Grace, and Bob Wells presented the benefits of the ancient martial art of Tai Chi, appearing in traditional garb to the crowd’s delight.

Retired professional boxer Paul Delgado then spoke about the popular Boxing Training for PD classes operated by his nonprofit, Livramento Delgado Boxing Foundation, and demonstrated a few drills with the assistance of two class members. Amy Morse and Paul explained how focusing with intention on the footwork and punching combinations helped people with PD battle the impairments symptomatic of the disease. Paul ended his presentation with a short video clip of a member of a class designed for people with more advanced PD symptoms punching the heavy bag with all the intensity she could muster. It was an inspirational moment!

Lynn Wark of the Forsyth Family YMCA in Cumming chose to present a video of her Parkinson’s Movement Classes, which are the most popular in the PD Gladiators at the Y program. Her dedicated following recently participated in an Olympics style event Lynn created and seemed to be having a blast! The program is offered at 17 Metro Atlanta branches, and Lynn’s experience demonstrates that the YMCA is willing to expand programming when the community supports the classes. The Forsyth branch recently added a third weekly class due to popular demand, and Lynn’s classes regularly draw 20-25 participants. If you want your local branch to offer more classes, show up, tell others, tell your doctors and PTs. They will build it if you come!

In a panel on the role of music and dance in combating PD, the instructors teamed up with participants in their classes to raise the roof! Kimberly Rodriguez had the crowd dancing in the aisles with an energetic Zumba/Total Body Fitness warm-up set to Pharell Williams’s “Happy” and Eleanor and Rob Rogers demonstrated their Dance for Parkinson’s moves with a slickly-choreographed James Bond number. Sandy Bramlett and her trio of male dancers closed out the panel with a smooth demonstration of her NIA for PD class, which combines dance with martial arts.

The program closed with an “Ask the Experts” Q&A, and there was no shortage of questions from the audience, many of whom lingered long after the MC had to bring the proceedings to an end.

A video recording of the event will be posted as soon as it becomes available.

The National Parkinson Foundation’s Moving Day Walk Atlanta will be held on Sunday, October 23rd. If you wish to participate or make a donation, please consider joining the PD Gladiators team or starting your own. You can sign up on the Moving Day Atlanta website. The NPF’s Moving Day Community Grants program has funded, in part, PD Gladiators, the PD Gladiators at the Y program, and the LDBF-PD Gladiators Boxing Training for PD program.

PD Gladiators, as a nonprofit organization tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, also accepts donations directly. If you would like to contribute, please visit web page.

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