Northwest News

Exercise classes helping those with Parkinson's

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Don Duhigg is getting a lot compliments these days.

Diagnosed with Parkinson's disease nine years ago, Duhigg has been taking exercise classes geared toward people with the neurological disorder.

He said he trains at least three times a week and feels the regimen has staved off the progression of the disease.

Others have noticed, too.

"They say, 'What is the secret?' " Duhigg said. "I say, 'Keep moving.' "

Duhigg, 81, of northwest Columbus is among a growing number of central Ohioans who have been taking physical fitness classes for those afflicted with Parkinson's, a degenerative condition for which there is no cure.

He was part a group that trained regularly at the Schiller Recreation Center in German Village. As of this week, those classes have been moved to Columbus Health Works, 1387 W. Fifth Ave.

Jeremey Quinn, a certified personal trainer at the fitness center, said the classes are free and open to the public. No registration is necessary. The schedule of activities is available online at delaythe disease.com.

The symptom most commonly associated with Parkinson's is constant tremors or shaking, but people also can exhibit a weakening of the voice, limited movement and stiffness of muscles.

David Zid, who owns Columbus Health Works, said many people who have taken his exercise program have seen dramatic results.

"If you start early, you'll have a much better outcome with exercise," Zid said.

"We've seen people reverse their symptoms and become symptom-free," he said.

"We feel that's because of exercise. We've had people stay in place for eight years with no progression. We think that's pretty amazing."

Zid, who has written two books and made two DVDs about exercise programs for people with Parkinson's, said his routines help sufferers in a variety of ways, from smaller steps such as improving posture and flexibility, to vigorous cardiovascular and weight training.

There are many mysteries surrounding Parkinson's and the progression of the disease, Zid said.

Yet he said he believes he's helping people to rethink their movements while improving the blood flow to their brains and building healthy neurons.

The classes are funded by money raised at a 5K and 50K race, held the first Sunday in November at Griggs Reservoir.

Zid said the event raises $15,000 to $20,000, which goes toward paying his instructors. He also recently started a fund with the Columbus Foundation.

About 120 people are enrolled in the exercise classes, which are being added at recreation centers in Westerville, Delaware, Upper Arlington, Dublin and Worthington.

Zid's program has made a believer of Tom Devine, who lives in Reynoldsburg.

"I've got more energy," said Devine, 83, a Parkinson's sufferer who's been taking the classes for a year and a half. "I feel better."

Quinn said the camaraderie at the classes can't be overstated.

"When they're here, they see other people with Parkinson's," Quinn said. "That's an invaluable part of the experience."

The positive effect spreads to loved ones and caretakers, he said.

"I think the great thing in working with people with this type of condition is invariably you help improve the lives of several people because of one person with Parkinson's," he said.

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