Finding, and Becoming, a Personal Trainer Specializing in Parkinson’s

personal trainer, guilt, Q&A

I received my Parkinson’s diagnosis five years ago. I fully intended to attack it head-on, starting with exercise. Parkinson’s is not for wimps. Dancing was an important part of my plan but I needed more.

The first step of my plan was to find a personal trainer. I went on a quest to find an experienced trainer with an understanding of Parkinson’s. Additionally, I needed someone who understood me. My research led me to a local community center that employed trainers who listed Parkinson’s disease as a specialty. Great. The first planning session was scheduled for that week.

First, the trainer reviewed my medical history with me. I was newly diagnosed, so my emotions were in overdrive and I was extremely guarded. Answering the questions that were not related to Parkinson’s was easy but then …

Trainer: “Do you have the shakes?”

Me: “Do you mean, do I tremor?”

Trainer: “No. I just call it the shakes.”

Really? The shakes? I was speechless, which is not an everyday occurrence. It was a small room so a quick escape was not feasible, but my mind left the building after question #1. The entire ordeal was only 20 minutes, but it left a lasting impression on me … the 45-year-old mom newly diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s.

The seed was planted. Could I be a personal trainer?

That very moment put me on the path to where I am today. I researched different programs and enlisted the help of a friend. Eventually, our Parkinson’s fitness program was up and running. We knew basic terms, including “tremor.” Initially, our program was PWRMoves! We added Rock Steady Boxing a year ago.

I never forgot that trainer who asked me if I had the “shakes.” (I guess I should thank him.) He planted the seed of my desire to earn a personal trainer certification. However, one thing held me back — the final exam. It intimidated me. Learning the material was not problematic, but the thought of going somewhere and taking a test terrified me. Ultimately, anxiety would hit and it would be game over. The right program was out there. I just needed to find it.

After keeping my toes in the water for years, I took the plunge and enrolled in an online course with ISSA. It was a perfect fit for me. The course fit my schedule and allowed me to work at my own pace. I also purchased a hardcopy of the training book; not an ebook but a real book with pages. It was exactly what I needed: a combination of the technology of an online course and the old-school approach of a hardcopy book.

Now I am the personal trainer and I still have a lot to learn. However, I passed Parkinson’s 101 for personal trainers — you tremor when your muscles are fatigued. You do not “have the shakes.” Understanding something so simple can make a world of difference for everyone.


Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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Brian Grant Foundation Launches Online Parkinson’s Exercise Training Program for Professionals

Parkinson's exercise program

A new online exercise training program for professionals working with Parkinson’s disease patients has been launched by the Brian Grant Foundation (BGF).

This free program is geared toward physical therapists, personal trainers, and group fitness instructors to assist them in developing safe and effective training classes for those living with the disease.

“After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s, I looked for ways to combat the symptoms that I was experiencing while keeping my physical abilities as long as possible,” Brian Grant, who founded BGF in 2010, said in a press release.

As a former NBA player, he understands the benefits of exercise, saying, “I learned the importance of staying flexible, keeping good posture and practicing specific movements to address symptoms of the disease.”

Research suggests that intense exercise programs can improve quality of life and help alleviate some of the most difficult motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, including gait, strength, cognition, and sleep difficulties.

The aim of this new program is to develop safe and effective exercises specifically for Parkinson’s patients. Exercises are based on research from Oregon Health & Science University’s (OHSU) Balance Disorders Laboratory, with which the Brian Grant Foundation works closely.

This research emphasizes using a combination of physical and cognitive activities to slow down the progression of symptoms related to Parkinson’s disease.

In a 2009 study published in the journal Physical Therapy, OHSU researchers discussed how specific Parkinson’s disease symptoms such as rigidity, slowness of movement, poor sensory integration, and impaired cognitive processing can ultimately limit mobility.

The team designed exercises that incorporate movements from different disciplines including tai chi, kayaking, boxing, lunges, agility training, and Pilates. Starting an exercise routine early after a Parkinson’s diagnosis can improve symptoms and slow down progression.

The online program includes 12 lessons, ranging from an introduction into Parkinson’s disease, aerobic exercises, and incorporating safety in exercises, to sessions on the specific movement principles introduced in OHSU’s research. The program emphasizes high-intensity exercises and a variety of movements.

Anyone interested in the free training program can register online.

BGF’s goal is to provide the tools necessary to improve the lives of those living with Parkinson’s disease by focusing on overall health through exercise and nutrition. It is recognized by the National Academy of Sports Medicine and Athletics and Fitness Association of America, and fitness professionals certified through either one of these organizations can receive continuing education credit for the online Parkinson’s training program.

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Source: Parkinson's News Today

Foundations Announce Latest Centers for Training Parkinson’s Specialists

Parkinson's specialists

The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) and the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation recently awarded five new medical centers with funding to train clinician-researchers working with Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders.

The five centers, awarded at the fourth round of fellowship funding, will receive financial assistance through a program, the Edmond J. Safra Fellowship in Movement Disorders, designed to have 20 new movement disorder specialists graduated by 2021.

The fellowship was launched in 2014 by the two foundations and it awards funding annually to five international academic medical centers to train one new movement disorder clinician-researcher (respectively) for two years.

The latest centers awarded are: Emory University, in Atlanta, Georgia; Northwestern University, in Chicago, Illinois; Radboud University, in Nijmegen, The Netherlands; University of Lübeck, in Lübeck, Germany, and University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Each institution must now identify a fellow who will begin two years of training in July 2019. Fellows work directly with movement disorder specialists who serve as mentors to learn the skills necessary for a career as a clinician-researcher.

“This program signals our commitment to Parkinson’s research and care, and we’re honored to collaborate with our longtime partner and supporter the Edmond J. Safra Foundation,” Todd Sherer, PhD, CEO of the MJFF, said in a press release. “Building an international network of movement disorder specialists is critical to driving research momentum and better addressing the considerable care needs of those living with Parkinson’s.”

The foundations announced the five winners at the New York City “Fellowship Symposium Day,” an event created to unite fellows and mentors to share research progress.

The special day was attended by 25 Edmond J. Safra fellows and fellowship directors and by Lily Safra herself, chairwoman of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation and MJFF Board member since 2001.

Graduating fellows in the Class of 2018 talked about their experience throughout the day and at a special luncheon, also attended by Ms. Safra.

“This program is serving a critical need,” said Safra. “More expertly trained movement disorder specialists means more doctors to care for people with Parkinson’s and lead research toward better therapies and a cure,” she said.

The Edmond J. Safra fellowship program addresses the growing need of being able to see a movement disorder specialist. These physicians, who are small in numbers, combine training in diagnosing and treating patients, with knowledge and experience in balancing complex medication regimens, allowing for  integration of the latest therapies.

When also trained as researchers, movement disorder specialists can use insights from their patients to inform studies toward improved understanding of disease and treatments.

With Parkinson’s becoming a growing problem — 12 million people are estimated to be affected worldwide by 2040 — care and continued research for this population is critical.

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Source: Parkinson's News Today