Called Grant’s Army, the program features a compilation of cutting-edge PD exercise research, case studies of exercise programs nationwide, and stories about patients who use fitness classes to help deal with symptoms. There also are video tutorials demonstrating activities known to help patients manage the neurodegenerative disorder that affects about seven to 10 million people globally.
“Research has found that exercising on a consistent basis is one of the best tools that people with Parkinson’s can use to manage symptoms of their disease,” Katrina Kahl, the foundation’s executive director, said in a press release. “Our goal with Grant’s Army is to ensure that exercise professionals are equipped with knowledge of evidence-based activities that are safe for people with Parkinson’s, and have been shown to effectively manage the symptoms.”
Exercise is important for those living with PD because it helps maintain balance, mobility and the ability to perform daily tasks. Researchers have found that patients who exercise at least 2.5 hours weekly also experience a slower decline in quality of life.
Specifically, research has indicated that exercise can lessen PD-associated tremor and improve gait, balance, flexibility, grip strength and motor coordination. Exercise also may improve cognition and lessen depression and fatigue, but studies in these areas remain ongoing.
A Grant’s Army’s patient profile features former pickup basketball player, long-distance swimmer and marathon runner Dale Moss, who experienced improvements in gait and balance after incorporating more Parkinson’s-specific exercises into his fitness routine.
Living with PD for about a decade, Moss enjoys the Parkinson’s fitness program at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital in Illinois, where he has participated in clinical trials and had deep brain stimulation surgery (DBS) three years ago. DBS is a neurosurgical procedure in which doctors implant thin metal wires in the brain that send electrical pulses to help control some motor symptoms.
“I’m not always as steady as I want to be,” Moss stated on a program webpage. “These days I’m more focused on exercises that target Parkinson’s rather than doing some of those more grandiose events I used to do in the past. That’s the direction I’m going now athletically. I know that I need to be working out every day.”
He said he focuses on exercises such as squats, lunges and those that help improve balance. “These are the types of exercises that will help improve my quality of life and make it easier to do things like get up out of chairs.”
With a focus on PD exercise, nutrition and emotional health programs, the 20-year-old Brian Grant Foundation offers evidence-based tools to enhance patients’ well-being. Since 2016, the BGF has been training exercise experts on activities specifically for individuals with Parkinson’s. Its Exercise for Parkinson’s training program for professionals is offered online as well as in person.
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