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Pilates for Active Ageing no. 1. Parkinson's disease

My Dad has Parkinson's disease. This was diagnosed about 15 years ago when he was around 60. Living with Parkinson's disease sucks. My parents should be basking in their sunset years. I don't know why my Dad has Parkinson's. It just seems like such bad luck. Parkinson's is just so cruel.

One thing that helps with Parkinson's is exercise. Research shows that individuals with Parkinson’s disease who exercise have fewer symptoms. We all know that exercise benefits your physical and mental health. Pilates can help reduce the severity of symptoms and the disability related to Parkinson’s disease.

One of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease is stiffness in the body, arms and legs. Movement in a full range will help with this stiffness and reduced range of movement. My mum is always telling my Dad to swing his arms when he walks, he usually has his arms stiff by his side, unmoving. He says this is because he used to always walk with his hands in his pockets when growing up in Canada, but the real reason is that Parkinson's is stopping him from swinging his arms. He has to concentrate on swinging his arms with a big gesture. At the moment he is walking with nordic poles to improve his arm swinging action. I gave him some small wrist weights to help with feeling the momentum of the movement of his arms swinging. At one stage mum would stand behind him with the nordic poles and use the poles like a trains wheels and push his arms forward and back as he walked, as he was holding the other ends, assisting his swinging action. This really gets the heart rate up and the gait looks much better too. :)

We all know exercise can help with moving your bowels without straining. Another fun symptom of Parkinson’s is straining to go to the toilet. Last Christmas I made a poo calendar for my Dad so you could get a gold star on the days you went to the toilet - like a tracking system. My big sister (who is a nurse) had an even better idea of using a stool chart. The calendar and stool chart were not really appreciated as much as either of us would have hoped for and this calendar was then reused for tracking dates of doctors appointments and holidays. I am not sure how much Pilates exercise helps with the constipation that accompanies Parkinson’s but I hope it helps a little at lease. During my live sessions with my Dad I used to ask if he had had a bowel movement that day. Now we talk more about the dog's poos and relate it back to the stool chart - texture, regularity etc. It is good to get my Dad talking as this helps with his speech and conversation comprehension.

Parkinson’s can cause you to stoop or hunch over. During my live Skype sessions with my Dad I am always cueing to lift the chest and grow tall. This definitely helps during the session and I feel that it assists with his posture outside of our sessions too.

I live in another city to my parents. I have spliced together some small moments from some of my live workouts on Facebook and edited them together for both my parents to use when I cannot give them live Skype sessions or when our calendars don't match up.

If you would like to find out more about my Active Ageing workshop please click here!

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