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Archive for the ‘Exercise’ Category

Parkinson’s Patients Pedal Toward Progress at the Boston JCC

Monday, February 27th, 2017

Exercise has proven to be beneficial to people living with Parkinson’s disease. The best exercise for you is the exercise that you’ll actually do! There are so many different options today including Rock Steady Boxing, Dance for PD, yoga, NIA exercise and cycling – and so many more. Cycling is the one exercise demonstration that you won’t see at the Unity Walk because the logistics of delivering multiple stationary bikes to Central Park is beyond what we can accomplish. Since we can’t showcase cycling classes at the Walk, we thought we’d  use our blog to share some insights into the cycling classes being offered around the country.

Helaine Isaacs
PUW Event Director

Audrey Edwards and Holly Rabinovitz at the JCC

On Monday mornings, the Boston JCC offers a cycling class that looks like any other. But there’s more to this cycle class than meets the eye: Each of its students has Parkinson’s disease, a neurological condition that impairs movement and function.

Cycling on stationary bikes may provide symptomatic relief for people with Parkinson’s disease, especially if they cycle using what is described as forced exercise, i.e. pedaling at a rate faster than their natural cadence. Researchers found this type of cycling exercise appeared to make regions of the brain that deal with movement connect to each other more effectively.  Cycling gives individuals the opportunity to build lower leg muscles in a safe way and individuals may also see an increase in energy level while enjoying exercise in a group environment.  These are all truly beneficial to the population living with Parkinson’s disease.

The Boston JCC is the only fitness facility in the area to offer a cycling class for people with Parkinson’s and the interest and participation have been extremely positive.  The instructors are certified Parkinson’s Cycling Coaches in addition to being experienced cycle instructors, both of which are very important in this specialized cycle class. Karen Sauer, a class participant who never rode on a stationary bike before taking the class is very happy that she is participating in the cycle class. “I think I am probably in better condition than I would be if I didn’t have Parkinson’s disease.  It’s unlikely that I would be taking a cycle class otherwise.  Or the other gym classes.  That just wasn’t me, pre-diagnosis.  Yes, there are challenges, and it’s sometimes hard to tell what’s Parkinson’s disease and what’s aging, but I am optimistic about the future!  Thanks for making exercise fun!”

The JCC and the Movement Disorder Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center are partnering to provide a wide range of fitness programs to the greater Boston community. The offerings are part of the Edmond J. Safra National Parkinson’s Wellness Initiative, launched to improve the lives of people suffering from Parkinson’s, a chronic and progressive movement disorder.

Click here to read Boston Magazine’s feature story on the JCC’s cycling program.

If you’re interested in the JCC’s Parkinson’s programming, visit www.bostonjcc.org or call 617-558-6459.

Holly Rabinovitz
Assistant Wellness Director
Boston Jewish Community Center

Brooklyn Parkinson Group

Friday, November 4th, 2016

Support groups have a strong presence at the Unity Walk and Brooklyn Parkinson Group (BPG) leads the way. They have grown in size, spirit and offerings and convey the support that is derived from their group. Not all support groups offer the same breadth of classes but the sense of connection and community is available in all of them. We’ve invited Leonore Gordon, Team Captain of the Brooklyn Parkinson Group’s team at the Walk to share her experience of BPG.
Helaine Isaacs
PUW Event Director

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The actual home of Brooklyn Parkinson’s Group (BPG) has been, since 2001, in downtown Brooklyn, in a building owned by the world-renowned dancer/choreographer Mark Morris, who heads his own dance company and public dance-school, located up the block from the famed Brooklyn Academy of Music. However, the whole notion of people with Parkinson’s benefitting from dance was the brain-child of Olie Westheimer, another Brooklyn resident who brought the idea to Mark Morris in 2001. Shortly thereafter,  Dance for PD® was launched as a non-profit collaboration between the Mark Morris Dance Group and BPG.

Mark Morris generously offered space for the Brooklyn Parkinson’s community to house our dance classes and, over time, our singing and movement classes, and monthly support groups for People with Parkinson’s (PWP) and their caregivers. Morris threw in the bonus of providing two of his top dancers as our dance teachers, David Leventhal and John Hegginbotham, joined for many years by Misty Owens, a gifted tap dancer and dance teacher. The icing on the cake was the added gift of a live pianist/composer of exceptional talent, William Wade, who played (and still plays) piano during the dance classes, who went on to teach and lead the PD singing group.

It wasn’t long before the popular Friday “Movement Lab” was added to the line-up, led by another celebrated BPG star, professional dancer and choreographer Pamela Quinn, who lives with PD herself. Quinn now also leads classes in Manhattan, and travels across the globe, teaching her techniques. (link to Pamelaquinn.net)

Birthed at the start of the 21st century, this new organism, “Brooklyn Parkinson’s Group” became a life-raft not only for me, but for dozens of others, (today numbering in the hundreds) some arriving from New Jersey, Long Island and the four other boroughs. I began to gratefully partake in the free weekly classes for PD folks and care-partners in dance, movement and singing in 2003, gradually rescheduling my hours as a family therapist and Resident Poet in the NYC public schools so I could attend. Participation slowly became a necessity, motivating me (and countless others) out of our houses and into the welcome company of peers struggling to adjust to living with Parkinson’s.

By 2008, my own progressing symptoms forced me (not unlike innumerable compatriots) to reluctantly retire from my two careers. By then, fortunately for me and about 15 others, a new partnership had recently emerged between BPG and Long Island University, initiated by a lawyer living with PD. LIU was just a few blocks away, and we jumped at the chance to attend twice-weekly aerobic and weight-training exercise classes.

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Suddenly, nearly every weekday, classes had become available, strengthening our bodies, our voices and our spirits. Of equal value, this daily-ness and continuity allowed many of us to become a community, and a family. Traveling between boroughs, we began to share meals, birthday celebrations, attend theater together, sign up for boat rides to see fall foliage, to visit one another in hospitals, and sadly, to jointly attend way too many funerals.

In 2011, one of our dance teachers, David Leventhal, once a lead dancer with a soaring career in the Mark Morris Dance Group, astonished us all by leaving the dance group in order to become director of “Dance for PD.” He began to train interested dancers to initiate new Dance for PD classes across the US and eventually, throughout the world.  His program and techniques are being taught in over 100 communities worldwide.

In 2013, after being filmed for a year by documentary filmmaker Dave Iverson (who also lives with Parkinson’s) and videographer Eddie Maritz, a beautiful hour-long film, “Capturing Grace”, was released. The film followed our dance community for over a year as we prepared for a final professional dance performance in 2012, and the film won Audience Favorite awards at film festivals across the US, eventually appearing on PBS.  “Capturing Grace” has inspired viewers with Parkinson’s world-wide to dance and to believe in their abilities to feel graceful again. capturinggracefilm.com

BPG and Mark Morris Dance Company are still partnering to offer dance and singing classes in all five boroughs, as well as in New Jersey. Thus explains the fierce loyalty of the Brooklyn Parkinson’s Group. At the end of the day, we all share a common bond of one extraordinary, creative, patient-based Parkinson’s community in the greater New York City area.

Leonore Gordon
Team Captain, Brooklyn Parkinson’s Group & Friends

 

Rock Steady Boxing – One Walker’s Experience

Monday, March 7th, 2016

Double photo #1 Mike Achin RSB copy

I was excited to hear that Rock Steady Boxing (RSB) will receive the Bonander Award at the Unity Walk this year. Over the last two years, RSB has become a very important part of my life. It has taught me a lot about fighting Parkinson’s disease (pd) and not giving up. The more we learn about pd, the more we learn that staying active through exercise is important. A body in motion stays in motion! There are many ways to stay active such as running, swimming, walking, yoga, etc. Just pick what you like to do and start doing it!

Two years ago at the World Parkinson’s Congress in Montreal, my wife, daughter and I attended a working seminar called Rock Steady Boxing. I immediately fell in love with it. It’s everything I had been searching for. I was so excited about this program! That same year at the Unity Walk, more information was available about RSB. The problem was they were in Indiana and I live in Massachusetts. I was searching for answers and trying to figure out how I could bring RSB to my area. I was getting frustrated but then I heard some good news. There was a boxer in Rhode Island who was going to open up his gym to Rock Steady Boxing. My prayers had been answered!!! Rich Gingras, along with my fellow pd warrior Mike Quaglia, had gone to Indy to get trained and BINGO, RSB had a home in Pawtucket, RI. That’s how I got involved. Now let me explain why I love RSB.

The word “boxing” scares some people off. They think we get in the ring and pound each other. Even though that might be fun it’s not what happens. We do everything else a boxer would do such as, footwork (don’t shuffle!!), stretch those muscles (so we don’t become rigid and hunched forward), and yes, putting on the gloves and hitting the heavy bag, hand pads and our new toy, the dummy. Our classes include people living with pd at every range along the continuum of this disease, from those confined to wheelchairs to those just diagnosed, and everything in between. Men and women, ages 30 to 80, all come to battle pd and take charge of our lives.

Everyone who enters our gym immediately becomes part of our band of brothers and sisters. We laugh, cry, enjoy the good days and help each other through the hard days. We are ONE, fighting back at pd!! When you enter our gym it is time to get to work. Get your hands taped up and start walking or jogging. We need to get our hearts pumping. It is now proven that a strenuous exercise program can slow the progression of pd. I have seen it over and over again at RSB. After we warm up, we do a good 15 to 20 minutes of stretching. This is so important in fighting the stiffness that pd tries to give our body. We learn new ways to stretch. We can do these on our own at home too. Last but not least, get the gloves on!! “It’s just you and me now pd … and I feel good. I am going to knock you silly!!” Every participant in the class works with a partner and we encourage one another to work to the best of our ability. We are all learning to take control of our lives and knock the crap out of pd. It feels good to let loose and pound that bag. You are swinging with your left and right hand, your good side and your bad side. You are stretching to hit the bag. You are using footwork. All things that we pd fighters have trouble with from time to time. Magically, you are swinging, jabbing, punching, and moving those feet – not every time, some days are a struggle. You actually feel good and you forget you have pd!!!! It’s a strenuous workout and if you do it right, you feel great and you’re exhausted.

Mike #4
There is also a bonus I did not expect from RSB. You become close to your fellow boxers; they become like family. We all know how much pd has tried to take away from us. But now we fight back – we sweat, fall, work through the times the meds are not kicking in, laugh, and cry … don’t mess around with my new family!! I love them all. At the end of every class we gather with a chant – one, two, three … FAMILY!! Outside of the gym we do the best we can. This is my life. This is how I take charge. These are my people!! What are you waiting for? Find a RSB near you and change your life forever!!

Note: pd is purposely not capitalized. I refuse to give it any respect.

Mike Achin
Team Member, Team DominACHIN over PD

Rock Steady Boxing is Punching Out Parkinson’s

Monday, February 15th, 2016

RSB Channel 12 video

Research has shown that exercise is beneficial to those living with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and we hear regularly from our walkers about the wide range of exercise that they are participating in. One program that is sweeping the country, having grown to 93 affiliate locations in 28 states in the US, is Rock Steady Boxing (RSB).

The RSB organization will receive the Alan Bonander Humanitarian Award at this year’s Unity Walk. The RSB – New England affiliate in Pawtucket, Rhode Island will perform a demonstration at the Walk in April and was recently featured on Channel 12 Eyewitness News, the local WCBS and Fox News affiliate in RI. Check out the news feature about RSB in their community, featuring Rich Gingras, the owner of Fight2Fitness and RSB trainer.

We look forward to your joining us at the 72nd Street Bandshell stage in Central Park on April 23rd when we get to observe first hand how these folks are fighting back at PD!

Knock Down Parkinson’s with Rock Steady Boxing Will Be at the 21st Parkinson’s Unity Walk

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

Awareness of Rock Steady Boxing’s value and its popularity is growing among the Parkinson’s community. Just around the time that they were featured on NPR, we received a phone call from Marlene Kahan, a long-time walker who asked if we knew about this program. She’s been attending at Gleason’s Gym and was singing its praises. Marlene introduced us to Roberta Marongiu and Alex Montaldo, Co-founders of Rock Steady Boxing NY/LA. Not only did Roberta and Alex agree to share their experience on the PUW blog but they’ve agreed to have members of their group perform two demonstrations on the Bandshell stage on Walk day. Check the Event Timeline for approximate times of their demonstrations and listen to announcements from the Bandshell stage for exact times.

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Rock Steady Boxing NY/LA is a bi-coastal non-profit organization devoted to helping people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) re-gain control over their lives. We fight back against PD inside and outside the ring!

Intense exercise and boxing drills not only help improve motor and non-motor functions, but they also contribute decisively to deconstructing the stigma associated with the disease.

Rock Steady Boxing was created in 2006 in Indianapolis, IN. We fell in love with the program and decided to bring it to New York and Los Angeles a year ago, and now we have two wonderful groups, one in Dumbo (NYC) and one in Santa Monica (LA).

Boxing classes are the core of our program, but our goal is to create a much more extensive support system. Most people still don’t know much about PD, so the diagnosis comes even more as a shock for them and their families, making them feel powerless.

We believe that a good fighter is an informed one! That’s why we created a network of Parkinson’s experts, support groups, physical therapists, and neurologists that believe in our program and are always ready to help.

Parkinson’s is a big, scary enemy, but together we can fight back. We want our boxers, and all the people who are battling this disease to know that they are not alone. They’re part of a team, together with their families, friends, doctors, physical therapists, support groups and us. We are their corner-men, always present and ready to help and give them strength, but they are the captain of the team. Their fighting spirit is key to knocking down Parkinson’s day by day, until we manage to knock it out for good!

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Alex Montaldo
Co-founder, Rock Steady Boxing Head Coach

Dr. Roberta Marongiu, PhD
Co-founder. Rock Steady Boxing Coach