By Bhavana Gopinath –
Dovercourt Recreation Centre is launching two innovative programs to help people living with Parkinson’s disease: the PIPRfit Strength for Parkinson’s (Wednesdays at 1:15 p.m. to 2:10 p.m., from Jan. 25 to Apr. 5, 2017) and PIPRfit Aqua for Parkinson’s (Fridays at 12 p.m. to 12:45 p.m., from Jan. 27 to Apr. 7, 2017).
These pilot programs, developed with support from Partners Investing in Parkinson’s Research (PIPR), are designed to help Parkinson’s patients with their specific challenges. Parkinson’s has several physical manifestations: tremors, slowed movements, rigid muscles, speech changes, impaired posture and balance are just some of the disease’s symptoms.
Alanna George, Manager, Health and Wellness at Dovercourt says that these will help address wellness in a non-clinical setting. Both fitness programs use exercise movements and techniques that are proven to be beneficial to Parkinson’s patients. Dovercourt’s trainers will use PIPR’s training manual which has inputs from physiotherapists and neurologists, and bring to bear their experience working with professionals in the rehabilitative community. PIPRfit Strength will incorporate large gestures and movements to reduce tremors, and PIPRfit Aqua will use the pool to build balance. These programs will be audited by neurologists and physiotherapists and will be iterative and responsive to patients’ needs.
PIPR is a grassroots organization which works closely with the Ottawa Hospital Foundation to raise funds – more than a million dollars thus far – for research into Parkinson’s. Kim Teron, one of the co-chairs of PIPR, says that there are several world-class scientists conducting cutting-edge research into Parkinson’s with Ottawa University and The Ottawa Hospital. Fundraising events such as Run for a Reason during Ottawa’s race weekend help bring in much-needed funds and also raises awareness about the disease. A portion of each PIPRfit registration will be directed towards PIPR to support research at The Ottawa Hospital.
Kim is spearheading this initiative with Dovercourt from a very personal perspective. Kim’s husband, Ross Tuddenham was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2010. Ross had always been active and very fit (a “gym nut,” Kim says), and loved to play tennis and other racquet sports. While he still leads a full and active life with Parkinson’s, the journey hasn’t always been easy.
Soon after Ross was diagnosed, Kim realized that the typical tremors and weaknesses of Parkinson’s made her husband so self-conscious, that he stopped going to the gym. However, it was vital for him to remain active; Parkinson’s patients can manage the disease better with regular exercise. Ross’s quality of life improved once he got help at the gym, and when he learned to ask for help even from perfect strangers when he needed it.
This is an experience common to many Parkinson’s patients and their loved ones, and are at the core of Dovercourt’s programs. Kim envisages the specially-designed fitness programs as part of Parkinson’s patients’ social lives: exercising in a supportive environment, in the company of other people who face similar challenges will alleviate some of the social anxiety that Parkinson’s patients have, and promote their well-being. Kim says Dovercourt is a great fit for such a project with good facilities and enthusiastic staff, and is accessible by transit and has a community-minded ethos.
Kim and Alanna hope that as more people participate in Dovercourt’s offerings, the programs can be fine-tuned to better meet the requirements of Parkinson’s patients, and that more awareness can be raised. The goal, as Ross believes, is to live well with Parkinson’s.
To register for these programs, visit www.dovercourt.org/enterprise/healthwellness_specialtyfitness.
For more information on the Ottawa Hospital Foundation’s PIPR, visit ohfoundation.ca/current-projects/research/parkinson-research-ottawa-hospital.