Exercise routines in the weekly sessions at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church help those who suffer from Parkinson’s Disease keep the symptoms at bay.

Get up and get moving

Weekly Parkinson’s group uses exercise for therapy

When suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, exercise makes all the difference.

A Parkinson’s sufferer, Renice Townsend, recognized that need and last September, started up an exercise group for others who have been diagnosed with the nervous system disease.

The group currently meets every Thursday around lunchtime to practice their daily exercises, and even learn a few new ones.

Thanks to a nearly $2,000 donation from Trail’s annual Mistletoe Market, the group is looking ahead to how it can improve the weekly meeting and find space for its exercise equipment.

“Rachel Jansen is a speech therapist at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital and her dad has Parkinson’s, and she also organizes the charity fundraiser, the Mistletoe Market,” said Townsend. “This was really exciting for us because it was $1960.50 and we want to establish a really good venue for the fitness program. I am currently consulting with Joanne Robbins (the physiotherapist who leads the group), and we are making plans for the future. We are so pleased to have received this gracious donation that will greatly contribute to our group.”

The weekly exercise group has about 10 members who suffer from Parkinson’s Disease and recognize the importance of daily exercise to help keep symptoms at bay.

“With Parkinson’s, we are losing dopamine which is the chemical that gets our muscles working,” said Townsend. “With Parkinson’s you can still develop new neural pathways and that makes it so important to work on exercising and stretching.”

Exercising for someone with Parkinson’s has a different goal than someone going to the gym to lose some weight.

“I remember in physical education class a million years ago, it was about seeing how many sit-ups you can do in 30 seconds,” shared Townsend. “For a person with Parkinson’s you want to do that exercise, but hold it. You want to keep the muscles lengthened. Short bursts of an exercise just doesn’t do anything. You need the long stretches and every day.”

Townsend credits her lifelong love of staying active for her high level of functionality over a decade after showing symptoms.

“I think one of the reasons I am functioning so well (13 years after showing symptoms) is that I have always loved physical activity,” she said. “Now, unfortunately, I have to work at it a bit more, but I have a really good background in that. The more I follow the daily exercise routine, the more energy I have and the better I feel throughout the day.”

The group currently meets in the basement of  St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Trail and Townsend can’t say enough about how helpful and accommodating the church staff has been for the exercise group.

“When we started in September, we had a place, but had to move and I was determined to find another place,” she said. “The Anglican Church and Father Neil Elliot have been just great. They have a wheelchair accessible basement and they have been so cooperative. I cannot speak highly enough about how great they have been.”

Exercisers are also looking for a couple of volunteers to help them out during their weekly sessions, in order to provide one-on-one attention for everyone who shows up.

The group meets every Thursday afternoon at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

For more information call Townsend at 367-7437 or Patti Leggett at 367-9258.

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