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Trainer demonstrates exercise beneficial for those with Parkinson’s

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By Kacie Goode

The difficulty of the tasks increased as trainer Traci Melgar had participants alternate movements of their arms and legs, and incorporated small weights. People with Parkinson’s disease can have difficulty shifting from one activity to another, performing more than one movement at a time, or keeping balance, so Melgar’s class targeted these areas as she met last week with the local Parkinson’s Support Group.

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Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that affects movement and often presents with symptoms of tremors, slow movement, stiffness and impaired balance. There is no cure for Parkinson’s, but medication, surgery and therapies can help manage symptoms. According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, regular exercise can reduce stiffness and improve mobility, balance and posture for people suffering from Parkinson’s disease, with the potential of improving one’s quality of life.

Melgar’s one-hour class incorporated seated yoga techniques, breathing exercises and pressure points, working slowly toward moving the limbs and testing balance. The class was open to the support group, which includes people with Parkinson’s, family members, friends and caregivers of those affected. Loved ones joined in some of the fun when Melgar had everyone partner up for a strength and balance exercise. The class was conducted with participants mostly seated or standing at a chair and was structured in a way that the same routine could easily be done at home. Melgar also encouraged walking, using stationary bikes and using a rower machine.

The exercises are not only beneficial to people with Parkinson’s disease, but aging adults in general, incorporating some of what Melgar teaches in community fitness classes. For those looking to become more physically active, the Parkinson’s Foundation recommends starting with gentle stretching and short walks; exercising in pairs or groups for motivation and support; exercising for short periods of time throughout the week; keeping track of physical activity and progress, and incorporating exercise in daily activities, such as shopping or watching TV.

Additional information on Parkinson’s disease can be found at parkinson.org. Anyone affected by Parkinson’s disease — including patients, caregivers, family and friends — is welcome to attend local support group meetings. The group meets at 1 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month at the main branch of the Nelson County Public Library. Call Jane Swarts with questions at (502) 350-4458.