A Glasgow hospital is leading the way with an innovative approach to helping people with Parkinson’s disease to keep physically and mentally fit.
New high intensity exercise classes, developed by physiotherapists in New Stobhill Hospital’s rehabilitation team, have been designed specifically for patients in early stages of Parkinson’s and are already showing benefits.
Parkinson's is a slowly progressive neurological condition which affects movement such as walking, talking and writing. There are around 145,000 people in the UK diagnosed with Parkinson's in the UK - around one adult in every 350.
Specialist Physiotherapist Aimi McGeough, who set up the class, said: “Parkinson’s is a disease which causes movement to become slower and smaller, making everyday activities more difficult.
“Research shows that exercise is especially good for people with Parkinson's. There isn't a one-size-fits-all approach so we work with patients to indentify the best exercise for them depending on how Parkinson's affects them.
“The specialist exercises we’re doing with patients need to be challenging and intense enough to stimulate the ability of the brain to change.
“There’s emerging evidence that such exercises engage the brain’s mechanisms to prevent further degeneration and slow the progression of symptoms, most notably in the early stages of the disease.
“To achieve maximum benefit, people with Parkinson’s must engage in this exercise long term. Therefore our aim is to work with patients in new ways not only in hospital, but also to carry on the good work they’re doing with us into the community.
“I’ve been going out to sports centres in the area at weekends to train staff so that when our patients are discharged back in to the local community there will be appropriate classes for them.
“As a service we firmly believe this will have a real positive impact on people’s lives and I’ve been working with Parkinson’s UK and our Health Improvement team in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to develop a Parkinson's community exercise class which East Dunbartonshire Leisure and Culture has agreed to host.”
Parkinson's is a disease in which nerve cells that deliver the neurotransmitter dopamine to other cells are reduced in numbers. As cell death spreads to ever larger parts of the brain more centres are affected. This results in an aggravation of motor and non motor disorders.
One woman to benefit from the classes is 68-year-old Jane Haig from Moodiesburn, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s last August.
Jane said: “I love coming along to the class; there’s a great atmosphere. I think knowing that everyone here has the same thing help and you don’t feel alone.
“Aimi our physio is fantastic and really helpful. The exercises are all about keeping the brain as strong as possible. Keeping positive and keeping moving are so important. I do the exercise at home too and I really think they help.
“Being diagnosed last year with Parkinson’s came as a huge shock but I’ve had a lot of support from the NHS and also my family. I have six lovely grandchildren and a new wee great grandchild on the way so that’s something for me to look forward to!”
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