Exercise Program for People with Parkinson’s Disease

August 5, 2015

Medstar Georgetown University Hospital and the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington Team Up to Provide Specialized Classes

WASHINGTON, D.C. (August 5, 2015)- People with Parkinson’s disease (PD) in the Washington, DC metro area now have access to exercise classes geared to their needs. Through a grant from both the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation and the National Parkinson Foundation, Medstar Georgetown University Hospital is collaborating with the Jewish Community Center (JCC) of Greater Washington to hold these exercise programs throughout the year.

The group exercise programs at the JCC in Rockville, Maryland include a chair-based exercise class, a yoga class, and a class called NIA (neuromuscular integrated action), which incorporates music and dance into a dynamic fitness program. The classes are a result of the Edmond J. Safra National Parkinson’s Wellness Initiative’s partnership with the National Parkinson Foundation to develop PD fitness programs around the country.

The NPF Center of Excellence at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital is one of only three Centers in the country to receive this grant funding.  

“Recent research suggests that people with Parkinson’s disease who start to exercise on a regular basis early on have a significantly slower rate of decline in quality of life measures like mood, movement, daily activities and socialization compared to patients who delay starting regular exercise,” said Steven Lo, MD, a neurologist who specializes in treating people with Parkinson’s disease at Medstar Georgetown.

“It adds objective evidence that exercise is a really important part of the treatment of PD patients, and should be encouraged to begin as early as possible,” added Barbara Wilmarth, NP, who is co-Project Lead for this program.

In addition to the exercises classes, the initiative also includes a weekly support group for Parkinson’s caregivers at the JCC and there are plans to hold educational lectures several times a year, open to anyone interested and touched by PD.

According to the National Parkinson Foundation, Parkinson’s affects about one million Americans and is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer's.

Barbara Wilmarth, Dr. Lo and colleagues at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital provide the medical screening for exercise program participants. The program is open to the full community – no matter a participant’s medical or religious affiliation.

Classes are offered at low-cost and JCC membership is not required to participate. They are weekly classes, running over 12 week periods throughout the year. Certified fitness instructors at the JCC lead the exercise classes. Each instructor has taken a class on Parkinson’s disease taught by Georgetown neurologists.

The Movement Disorders Program at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital is the city’s only Parkinson’s disease “Center of Excellence” designated by the National Parkinson Foundation.

The September class schedule is as follows:

  • Chair Exercise: Tuesdays starting September 8 through December 8 (Skip 9/15 and 9/22).
  • Yoga: Thursdays starting September 10 through December 3 (Skip Thanksgiving Day November 26).
  • NIA: Sundays starting September 13 through November 29.

For more information about the exercise program with the JCC or to schedule an appointment to enroll, please call 202-444-9355, or email: [email protected]. Participants must have an intake evaluation prior to their first class which can be scheduled a few weeks before the start of each session.

Category : Neurosciences ,

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