In honor of Parkinson’s Awareness Month, we want to share inspiration and information about the positive power exercise can have on those navigating Parkinson’s every day. Parkinson’s disease is a life-altering diagnosis. Exercise can favorably impact daily living skills, improve balance, eye-hand coordination and gross motor movement.
According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, nearly one million people in the U.S. live with the disease. About 60,000 Americans are diagnosed every year. Since there is no cure, managing the disease falls into a few categories: medications, therapy, family and community support, healthy eating and being physically active.
Parkinson’s is a movement disorder. So telling someone who’s having a hard time walking to “hit the track” will not be helpful and will certainly get you a few eye rolls. Embracing movement gives you a superpower to maintain your mobility.
We recently sat down with PJ Olsen, founder of Restorative Strength, a Nashville-based wellness company dedicated to helping individuals restore their physical fitness. Her practice includes Seniors and people challenged with physically limiting conditions such as Parkinson’s.
Building Confidence, Gaining Control of Body and Home
“Even two steps up to the front door or from the garage into the house can be a huge barrier for people starting to develop physical limitations,” says Olsen. She saw that with her aging mother and has seen this with her clients.
With each stumble or fall, people may start to lose their confidence. “Home” may no longer feel like a safe haven. Olsen recommends moving as much as possible, especially the things you commonly do. “My clients don’t love doing this, but for two minutes, I have them get up and down from the floor. Up and down, up and down. The more time they spend on the floor, the less fear they’ll have when they fall because they know they can get back up.”
Olsen suggests that every time you try a movement you are afraid of, you create the strength to do it by simply doing the action. You have gained more control over your life. She also shared the importance of improving mobility inside the home. “My father had grab bars installed all over the house.” The goal was to keep mom moving.
Fighting Back Against Parkinson’s
For some, Parkinson’s is a real punch in the gut. Thankfully, Rocksteady Boxing is available to help people fight back. This hard-hitting international nonprofit, “…initially began through the friendship of two men, Scott Newman and Vince Perez, after Scott had been diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s at the age of 40. Refusing to let his friend go down without a fight, Vince turned to his experience as a Golden Gloves boxer to design a program that attacks Parkinson’s at its vulnerable neurological points. His intuitive insight is now proven to have merit through an increasing body of medical research.”
Rocksteady Boxing uses non-contact boxing techniques to improve balance, strength, and range of motion. It essentially trains the brain to move the body. Not only does the body benefit, but there’s also a community of camaraderie and support. The program is giving Parkinson’s a swift kick in the pants!
Living for Now
Staying active is one of the cornerstones to successfully navigating the neurodegenerative issues related to Parkinson’s. While activity can improve the quality of life of those living with Parkinson’s, there are other aspects to the disease’s progression, which can feel like a long journey with the “destination unknown.”
Living for “now” becomes important, shares Carol Rushton in her My PD Story, a collection of impact stories curated by the Parkinson’s Foundation. Carol and her husband Dave, who she cares for, choose to focus on “what is” instead of “what was.” They are grateful for the life they have today and determined to live purposely.
Others volunteer in the Parkinson’s community or host fundraising events. That’s the hallmark of many living with Parkinson’s and those supporting them – moving forward and giving back.
For more information on Rocksteady Boxing in your area, check out their website: www.rocksteadyboxing.org.
For more information on Parkinson’s disease, check out these websites: