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In response to a growing demand for exercise classes designed specifically for those living with Parkinson’s disease, Presbyterian Village North (PVN) created a new, free fitness class called Mindful Movement that is open to its residents and members of the public. The class already has a waiting list. After learning of the high demand for similar movement disorder exercise classes in Dallas, PVN decided to create the Mindful Movement class to give area seniors additional classes, times and locations to consider. The first class was held in March, and seniors are experiencing amazing results thus far. Ann Martin, a resident of PVN who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 10 years ago, is a huge advocate of the class saying it is what has kept her going. She attended the class at other locations in the Dallas area for the last nine years, and she is thrilled to now attend at the senior living community she calls home. The classes are held in The Jim & Bess Blanchette Lifestyle Fitness Center, PVN’s newly renovated and expanded wellness center which just reopened last year, on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3:15 to 4:15 p.m. 


“Parkinson’s is a movement disorder, so it is imperative to keep moving your body if you want to delay the progression of the disease,” said Martin. “As soon as PVN opened the doors to its very first class, seniors were eager to attend. I went to the first class in early March and have been going ever since. I also do some of the exercises at home or at the gym in conjunction with time spent on the treadmill, the stationary bike and outdoor walking trails. It’s easy to find the motivation to work out when you know that it will help you remain mobile. My relative has a friend in Houston who is living with Parkinson’s, and I encouraged him to participate. He didn’t take any proactive steps to increase his physical activity, and his health has deteriorated so much. You have to keep your muscles moving, and you even have to practice vocal exercises too.”


As soon as Martin learned of her diagnosis, she immediately took action to figure out what steps she could take to maintain and improve her overall health and well-being. She sought counsel from a helpful group in Dallas called the Dallas Area Parkinsonism Society (DAPS), which provides a monthly newsletter with information on where to find fitness classes, emotional support groups and other beneficial therapies all designed to assist those living with Parkinson’s, as well as their families.


“A decade ago, medical professionals were not even pushing exercise classes and movement,” said Martin. “I learned of it in a DAPS newsletter and decided to give it a go. I joined classes at the Cooper Clinic and started participating in Loud Crowds with the Voice Project. Vocal exercises are just as important as physical movement. In the last 10 years, several new forms of classes have been developed for those living with Parkinson’s. Some places have noncontact boxing classes and dancing classes. At PVN, we have an aquatic class called Roll with the Punches for residents living this movement disorder. All our fitness instructors and physical therapists undergo training to learn how to lead each respective class or program. I feel truly blessed to live in a senior living community that is going above and beyond to meet the individualized needs of its residents. It is amazing to see how these exercises classes designed for those living with movement disorders have evolved over the past decade. The knowledge medical professionals have gained in this span of time, and the dedication of former and present leaders has helped movement disorder classes positively evolve.”


There are usually 15 people in attendance for each class, and the class focuses on a variety of movements including cardio, detailed leg movement, stretching, weights, bands and dancing. Attendees move through a variety of exercises designed to increase balance, posture, strength, and range of motion. This total body workout is a great choice for anyone, even those living without movement disorders.


“We are so excited to add this class to our list of 60-plus wellness classes that are currently offered to residents,” said Shannon Radford, wellness director of Presbyterian Village North. “Beyond the physical benefits, those who attend enjoy camaraderie with other attendees in an environment in which everyone understands that they are not alone. People can share knowledge, ideas, experiences and empathy with people in similar situations. We are delighted to bring this class to the residents of PVN and to welcome those in the surrounding community who may benefit as well. The participants are all so grateful and motivated. It’s been such a wonderful and rewarding addition to our program.”


“A majority of those who attend do not live at PVN,” said Bryan Cooper, executive director of Presbyterian Village North. “We are thrilled to make this much-needed and desired free class available to the public. April is recognized nationally as Parkinson’s Awareness Month, and Shannon has been encouraging residents to wear blue in support of the cause.”

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