Parkinson’s disease patients pedal their way to better health

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Within a couple of weeks after starting the Parkinson's Wellness Recovery (PWR!) and Pedaling for Parkinson’s programs at Greenville YMCA, Peggy Phillips started seeing physical improvements.

If you had asked Peggy Phillips 20 years ago on her 50th birthday whether she would be spending her retirement years cycling for exercise, she likely would have raised a skeptical eyebrow and shook her head.

Phillips didn’t learn to ride a bike until she was 30. Six months after starting to cycle, she gave up the recreation because of a bad spill.

And, yet, here she is twice a week at a local YMCA, cycling for her health and to slow down the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

“I made a New Year’s resolution for Peggy, to take care of myself and to do what I have to do to improve my quality of life,” she says.

The resolution led her to lose weight and eat healthy foods, to take a yoga class and enroll in the special Parkinson’s Wellness Recovery (PWR!) and Pedaling for Parkinson’s program that was started late in 2016 at four sites of the YMCA of Greenville.  So far about 20 people have signed up for the program.

Within just a couple of weeks, Phillips could see physical improvements. “I feel much more fluid and limber than I ever have, after yoga, and after cycling, I feel the energy. I haven’t felt this good in years,” she says.

Phillips’ balance — a big issue in Parkinson’s disease — is also improving.

“If I start to trip, I can catch myself,” Phillips says. “I have so much more balance, and I can’t believe it’s only been this short time.”

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that can result in minor symptoms, sometimes including hand tremors, for a decade before a person is diagnosed, says Laryn Weaver, executive director of the Greenville Area Parkinson Society (GAPS), which is working with the YMCA to get the word out in the community about the PWR! and Pedaling for Parkinson’s program.

An estimated 5,000 people in Greenville have the disease, Weaver says.

Cycling, yoga, boxing, and dancing all help slow the disease’s progress. The key is to work with experts who are trained to work with Parkinson’s patients, Weaver says.

The PWR! program helps alleviate Parkinson’s symptoms by helping people produce high physical effort with forced use and intensity, repetition, and making them think, says Leslie Knox, wellness program coordinator and personal trainer at the GHS Family YMCA in Simpsonville.

“Cycling does a lot for them, as well,” Knox says. “It works on their balance by having them sit on the bike, increase muscles in their legs and increasing their stamina.”

The YMCA program has 14 coaches trained by a National Parkinson’s trainer to work with PWR! and Pedaling enrollees. Honey and Doyle Yates funded the training program.

Doyle Yates is a lifelong YMCA member and has served on the Caine Halter Family YMCA’s board, as well as led the organization’s Open Doors Annual Giving campaign.

“As a Parkinson’s patient myself, I have a keen interest in this program and to help others that have Parkinson’s,” Doyle Yates says. “It was important to Honey and me that the YMCA be able to offer this program to our community.”

 

Need to know more about PWR! Pedaling for Parkinson?

The YMCA of Greenville is offering the PWR! and Pedaling for Parkinson’s program across the county. Although this is a national program, the YMCA of Greenville is the only place to offer it in South Carolina.

Here’s where it is available:

The program is available to members of the YMCA. They must have physician approval. Also, there is financial assistance available, based on income.

For more information, call the Y at 864-412-0288, email Leslie Knox at lknox@ymcagreenville.org or visit the Wellness Works and PWR! sites.

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