Parkinson’s program planned at UVMC

Staff report

TROY — A program whose goals include delaying the progression of Parkinson’s disease symptoms focuses on individual’s weaknesses, not their strengths, program cofounder Jackie Russell, of Columbus, told participants in a Delay the Disease seminar, Jan. 20, at Upper Valley Medical Center.

Russell, a registered nurse, and program cofounder David Zid led a lively, 90-minute, interactive presentation during which they put willing attendees through a series of exercises.

Delay the Disease is designed to keep those with Parkinson’s disease moving. The program is offered in 18 states and Canada and will be offered at UVMC beginning in March.

“We focus on practicing at whatever you are bad at,” Russell said, noting those functions might include getting up off the floor, getting out of bed or a chair, rotating the body and walking backward and forward.

The program includes balancing, mobility and strengthening exercises targeting Parkinson’s systems such as rigidity, stooped posture, altered balance, masked facial expressions, depression, diminished voice volume and walking/gait, among others.

“We think this is the newest ‘medication’ for Parkinson’s disease,” Russell said. “We think this empowers people. The disease takes control from you. Don’t let it.”

Russell and Zid led participants in exercises to increase their heart rates, then address specific movements.

Daily exercise is important, Zid said, telling participants to make the exercises they could do a habit. The program can be performed by those who are mobile or in a wheelchair, he said.

“The disease progression is slow and your habits change,” he said. “If you exercise vigorously, you get better — period.” The exercise increases positive chemicals in the brain, allowing for greater movement, he said.

Zid encouraged people to use sticky notes on their bathroom mirrors to remind them to practice smiling or other places for reminders to do the exercises and talk louder.

Dr. Mary Feldman, a neurologist with the Premier Health Clinical Neuroscience Institute, who is board-certified in neurology and movement disorders, said the bottom line is that exercise is helpful for people with Parkinson’s disease. She likened exercise to “fertilizer for the brain.”

Feldman encouraged people to begin exercise as early in the disease’s progression as possible.

“It empowers you to do something about the disease, not just rely on the drugs,” she said.

A Delay the Disease program will be offered at UVMC from noon to 1 p.m., Tuesdays, March 13 through May 29. The cost is $120 for the 12-week session. The registration deadline is Feb. 15. To register, call 1-866-608-FIND or visit For information, call 937-440-7152.

Staff report