ó Claire Hackett, a retired dietician, never saw herself as
77, the Palmetto Bay, Fla., mother of seven is enrolled in a
twice-weekly indoor cycling class at the UHealth Fitness and
Wellness Center west of downtown Miami. She walks the
treadmill and takes yoga classes at the Y and takes chair yoga
and music therapy classes at her local park.
got a new bag, too. A punching bag. "Iíve also taken up
boxing," Hackett said.
origin of all this activity can be traced back seven years,
when Hackett was diagnosed with Parkinsonís disease, a
neurological disorder that affects about 1.5 million
Americans, according to the National Parkinsonís Disease
Foundation. Parkinsonís, for which there currently is no
cure, is characterized by the loss of dopamine neurons in the
Parkinsonís progresses, motor and non-motor skills may
decline, leading to rigidity and gait disorders, tremor and
cognitive loss. High-profile patients like former U.S.
attorney general Janet Reno, singer Linda Ronstadt, actor
Michael J. Fox, boxing champ Muhammad Ali and former Major
League catcher Ben Petrick, who was diagnosed at 22, have put
a face to the disease and promoted awareness.
suggest Hackett is on to something with her burst of activity.
Some recent studies, including by the Cleveland Clinic in
Ohio, published in 2008, found that patients with Parkinsonís
showed a 35-percent decrease in symptoms after participating
in a cycling program. A study in 2012, by researchers at Kent
State Universityís department of exercise science, also
found that exercise and movement therapies benefited patients
with Parkinsonís, but there remains little consensus on the
optimal mode or intensity of exercise.
of this information that is coming in dovetails with what we,
the establishment, are promoting with physical therapy or
exercise as part of our daily recommendations to our
patients," said Dr. Carlos Singer, director of the
Parkinsonís Disease and Movement Disorders at the University
of Miamiís Miller School of Medicine.
is the hot topic in neurology and the neurology of Parkinsonís
disease," Singer said. "There is evidence coming in
that it makes a difference in slowing down the progression of
Parkinsonís, and itís good physically and for cognitive
ability ó the ability to think clearly and for better
doctorís advice? Get moving.
seems to release one of our natural proteins, which is called
the growth factor, and the growth factor has an influence on
making our brain neurons ó the nerve cells ó more
fortified, with more vigorous connections. Thatís one of the
theories on why exercise may be working," Singer said.
the medical communityís enthusiasm over the results so far,
the National Parkinsonís Foundation partnered with UHealth
Fitness and Wellness Center to create a Cycle for Parkinsonís
class at the Miami medical venue. The program is free for
patients and (space permitting) for their caregivers, funded
by a $22,000 grant. Classes are 60 minutes apiece, twice
class is held on stationary bikes. Unlike the Cleveland study,
which used tandem bikes in which a patient and a captain are
paired on a bike, with the captain generally setting the pace,
UHealthís Cycle for Parkinsonís class offers individual
bikes, much like those found in a traditional gymís class.
Patients, guided by trainers, can proceed at their own pace or
take a break.
for Parkinsonís launched with a three-month pilot program in
January for about 15 patients and a handful of their
goal, said Brittany Dixson, the Wellness Centerís health
fitness specialist: "Improve the quality of life for
those with Parkinsonís. We saw improvements. These
participants did pre- and post-testing, and they felt better,
there were aerobic capacity improvements, some strength
improvements. A lot of time with Parkinsonís, they feel
alone or isolated, and a group setting gives an aspect of
the Palmetto Bay mom, was one of the participants in the
10-week pilot and enrolled in the current program, which began
in late June.
Iíve had Parkinsonís, the exercise has helped my
symptoms," Hackett said. "Iím stronger, I have
more energy. Iíd have difficulties walking with Parkinsonís
and fatigue, but the exercise definitely helps that."
days her husband, Bob, who does not have Parkinsonís, joins
Hackett for classes. Her family is impressed with her exercise
routine and the results, she said.
think itís great, they really do. I never thought Iíd be
doing that. I do enjoy it. I canít say itís easy; itís