Perspectives

Getting physical with Parkinson’s disease


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OHIO physical therapy students offer free exercise class for those with Parkinson’s

 Living with or loving someone with Parkinson’s disease can be overwhelming, but a program offered by Ohio University — the Parkinson’s Exercise Project (PEP!) — can help.

Physical therapy faculty and doctoral students provide a free exercise class every Tuesday and Thursday from 3 to 4 p.m. in Grover Center E216, instructing Parkinson’s patients on exercises that help reduce disease symptoms. These group activities focus on producing large movements, improving balance and increasing strength, all in a fun and supportive environment.

Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder that involves the malfunction and death of vital nerve cells in the brain. According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, as many as one million Americans are living with Parkinson’s. Although there is no cure for the disease, exercising is a way to help manage symptoms.

This program was created in January 2013 and spearheaded by Assistant Clinical Professor Brooke Vaughan of the College of Health Sciences and Professions. Through the generosity of The Athens Foundation, the Parkinson’s Exercise Project is now poised to help even more people with the disease. In addition to providing funds to promote the program to a wider audience, the grant allowed for the purchase of much needed exercise equipment.

According to Vaughan, the program was originally created for patients she had personally worked with who would benefit from additional exercise but were lacking resources.

“The program has served as a valuable asset for both our physical therapy students and people with Parkinson’s,” she said. “Educationally, our students have benefitted by applying classroom concepts in a real-world environment and by being introduced to several healthcare issues related to rural patient populations, specifically a lack of preventative and wellness resources.

The Parkinson’s Exercise Project also allows participants to receive social support from other individuals living with Parkinson’s as they share their experiences and disease-management strategies.

For more information regarding the Parkinson’s Exercise Project, contact Brooke Vaughan at vaughanb@ohio.edu.