Exercise Picks up People with Parkinson’s: May 22, 2012

For Jerry Bramlett, it started as a rumble in his forties.

“I noticed a tremor and I was having trouble with my balance and people kept saying that I was mad all the time cause they said I had a masked face.”

These are classic symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. The tremors, balance issues, rigidity and reduced facial expression. It’s a diagnosis that no one wants to hear.

“Parkinson’s is a neurologic disorder that develops in the brain over the course of many years. Ultimately your body becomes deprived of its ability to move,” says Kurt Gray, a physical therapist with Lee Memorial Health System.

Helpless and hopeless was how Jerry took it. “I just sat out on the porch and quit.”

It was clearly the wrong approach.

“Research has proven that higher levels of activity shows the process of this disease. If people keep active, they don’t lose their ability as rapidly,” says Gray.

Lee Memorial Health System developed a Parkinson’s exercise program as part of its community outreach. Jerry gave it a try.

“After a while doing the exercise and everything, the balance started to improve and the more you work at it, the more it improves,” says Bramlett.

Within months of starting classes, Jerry was teaching them.

“We had one fellow that came in a wheelchair, he just gave up, and then he started taking steps and he went to a walker and then he went from a walker to a cane. From the cane he went back to driving his car,” says Bramlett.

Repetitive exercises, reinforcing simple skills worked wonders: reversing both symptoms and attitudes.