Williamson and Gatschet's first six-week session started last November, and Keith Thomas was skeptical. "We had the class suggested to us by some of the health care professionals that we were working with," says Thomas. He adds, "I was actually not supportive of this but my wife out-voted me, so I started taking dad (Thomas' father in law) to the exercise classes." It didn't take long for Thomas to realize, his wife was right.
"It was like me witnessing a minor miracle, I was astounded with the progress he was making," says Thomas.
The moves are simple enough, for someone without Parkinson's. You do things like raise your hand, reach across your body, tap your foot from one side to another or simply just speak to the person next to you. By doing these simple actions, just a few times a day, people's lives have been changed dramatically.
Warren Meyer saw an improvement in just three weeks. Before taking the classes he was about to have to sell his car because he was unable to coordinate his hand and foot movements to drive the manual transmission.
After his first session of exercise classes with Williamson and Gatschet, Meyer is back to driving his stick shift and doesn't intend to sell his car anytime soon. However, his improvements didn't stop there. "I sleep better at night," says Meyer, "and the fact that I can move around a lot better helps a lot. It's a mental thing. The fact that I'm able to do things again that I was starting to lose the ability to do or was a struggle to do them."
It's simple tasks like writing checks that Meyer is finally able to complete that have given him his life back. Thomas' story of improvement is a little more dramatic.
"I started taking Dad in, in a transport chair. I had to take him in in a transport chair and out in a transport chair. And we quickly, and I mean very quickly, progressed from a transport chair to where I was taking him in in a transport chair and bringing him out with a walker. Then, it was in with a walker and walking out with a walker. And by the time that we finished up with the classes he was walking on his own, unassisted, on my arm. We were walking in, and we were walking back out," says Thomas.
And these are just two of the myriad of stories involving patients regaining their quality of life by simply exercising. "We have information," says Williamson, "where we've heard people are now able to get back out into society and interact. They're able to participate in functions and not be embarassed and they're able to get in and out of restaurant booths that they haven't been able to get in and out of before. So they can get back to normalcy and get back to being a real citizen in the community."
In fact, Williamson says that if a patient is receiving the proper medication and is also actively exercising every day they can eradicate up to 80% of the symptoms of the debilitating disease.
Thomas and Meyer know first-hand what a different the exercises can make. Meyer actually stopped the exercise classes for a few weeks because he had contracted the flu and once he stopped his tremors returned.
Meanwhile, Thomas is still amazed at the progress he's seen with his father-in-law. He also encourages others to forget their skepticism and take a chance that this may also work for them. "What have you got to lose, and what have you got to gain?" questions Thomas. "Because you have so much to gain and the Parkinson's patient has so much to gain."
If you would like to learn more about the exercise classes from Dr. Williamson you can contact her on her website, www.williamsonfitness.com. You can also contact Shana at firstname.lastname@example.org or through her website, www.adaptive-living.com.Exercise and Parkinson's.