Excercise program takes aim at Parkinson's

Exercise is a powerful tool to help control the effects of Parkinson's disease, according to one local resident dealing with the neurodegenerative condition.

Movement is controlled by dopamine, a chemical that carries signals between the nerves in the brain and when the cells that normally produce dopamine die, the symptoms of Parkinson's appear, according to the description provided by Parkinson Canada.

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"The more you exercise the more dopamine your brain produces, which combats the symptoms of Parkinson's," said Carol Lamb. "I am convinced that exercise is the key."

Because of her dedication to exercise, Lamb has taken the lead with the Step By Step program for those with Parkinson's in Prince George.

The program goes for 12 weeks and started this month in honour of Parkinson's Awareness Month. The group, which welcomes participants including caregivers of those with Parkinson's, meets every Friday at 10 a.m. at Exploration Place and heads out to Lheidli T'enneh Memorial Park.

The plan is to get everyone out and moving to increase their daily exercise because the recommended daily amount for the average person is 10,000 steps for optimum health.

"The program is a way of encouraging people to get out and exercise however small amount they are capable of doing right now and trying to increase their ability to walk further and to make it a part of their lifestyle," said Lamb. "We found that the social aspect of the group walking together is very important. Parkinson's people tend to isolate themselves, especially the newly diagnosed, and when they join the group they become a part of a community."

Walking might be considered to be more of a challenge for people with Parkinson's because some of the most common symptoms of the disease include tremors, impaired balance, slowness and stiffness and rigidity of the muscles.

"You know the old saying 'if you don't use it, you'll lose it', well that applies to all of us," said Lamb, who knows it's best to keep moving and staying as healthy and strong as possible when Parkinson's is a health issue that can bring sleep disturbances, fatigue, and depression along with it.

During Step By Step the group encourages people to walk as far as they are comfortable, said Lamb, who was diagnosed in 2004. Her Parkinson's journey began when she noticed a tremor in her hand as she held a piece of toast about a year before diagnosis.

The local Parkinson's Group has a support group that meets regularly. For more information about dates and times call Gina at 250-564-8955.

The local group will have an information booth at the 39th Annual Canadian Home Builders' Northern BC Home & Garden Show at Exhibition Park April 22 to 24.

The Parkinson Society of British Columbia will host the annual regional conference in Prince George on Saturday, May 28 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Westwood Church, 2658 Ospika Blvd. Presentations include a Parkinson's overview by Dr. Claire Hinnell, a neurologist from Surrey, who will talk about the latest research being conducted in B.C. Other topics presented by Hinnell include the challenges of sleep people with Parkinson's face, and how to better understand the role nutrition plays in symptom management. The benefits of mindful living will be presented by Tracy Larson, MA, MDE, RCC. For more information and to register call Caroline Wiggins at 1-800-668-3330.

Watch for the raffle beginning in June, which is a fundraiser for Parkinson's that has a prize of a handmade quilt. The group is always looking for more sponsors and if anyone would like to donate raffle items, the group would appreciate it.

The main fundraising event for Parkinson's disease is the SuperWalk, which is held in September for those wishing to help raise funds for Parkinson's research.

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