Exercise Class Offers New Hope for Patients with Parkinson’s

Patients who are battling Parkinson’s disease are helping their minds and bodies stay fit with weekly exercise classes held at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

February 7, 2012

Weekly Classes Help Keep Patients’ Minds and Bodies in Shape

Washington, D.C. — Patients who are battling Parkinson’s disease are helping their minds and bodies stay fit with weekly exercise classes held at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

What started as a small group with only a few participants has since turned into a popular class filled with 18 to 20 patients attending each week. The class teaches a series of exercises that help improve posture and mobility regardless of ability.

“The classes confront all of the problems people have when they have Parkinson’s,” said Joel Haveman of Washington, D.C. Havemann was diagnosed in 1990 and has been attending the exercise class regularly for about six months. “The disease manifests itself differently in different people, so there’s a huge range of symptoms and abilities. The instructors make it so that everyone can benefit from class. There’s something for everyone.”

Each exercise class is taught by an MGUH physical therapist, occupational and speech therapist, and focuses on motor control, speech and voice, balance, memory, socialization skills and facial movements.

Exercise Class Offers New Hope for Patients with Parkinson’s“Each week, attendees participate in a socialization activity that requires them to speak to someone from the exercise group they haven’t met yet, or they haven’t talked to recently. The participants have to report back to the group, remember to project their voice, recount what their partner told them and interact with others in the group,” said Lisa Ebb, PT, MS, NCS, a physical therapist at MGUH. “Ultimately, the goals of the activity are to help improve voice volume, memory and facial expression.”

The department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) has hosted the classes for Hospital patients for several years and the sessions are now sponsored by the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation after a partnership was formed in 2011.

According to Ebb, the class has also turned into a support group for participants. “Each week, our patients come in and talk about everything from their medication to how they’re feeling—it truly makes a difference for them.”

“This is a great program. It cuts down on my medication,” said Arpad Bergh of Washington, who was diagnosed in 2010 and has been attending classes with his wife for over a year. “We’ve found it to be very beneficial, and so we keep coming back. If I could change anything, I’d want to have it two times a week instead of one!”

Two of the Hospital’s PM&R employees received additional training this past fall. “It’s important that we continue to learn as much as we can about this disease, and learn ways to help our patients manage their symptoms,” said Ebb. “Our patients deserve the best possible care, and by taking part in this class, they are helping to improve their overall health and quality of life.”