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Parkinsons New Zealand says Keep moving, keep fit

28 October 2004

Parkinsons New Zealand says Keep moving, keep fit

Keep moving, keep fit is the theme of Parkinson's Awareness week which runs from 1 to 7 November.

The keep moving theme is echoed by 68 year old Derek Williamson from Hamilton who has Parkinson's disease and exercises on a daily basis.

"Since I started exercising I feel 100% better," said Derek. "It helps with everything - the tremor, balance, headaches.everything."

When he was first diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1993 Derek went through a bad patch.

"I gave up everything for about six months. I didn't want to do anything, I was shaking a lot and had terrible headaches. I didn't want to know anything about Parkinson's. I couldn't get out of my chair, I was tripping over and very forgetful."

"My daughter bought me a Lazy Boy chair, I got Sky TV, and ate lots of Kentucky Fried and McDonalds. I stopped all my activities - and because I wasn't doing anything my family were terribly upset about my Parkinson's."

It was Derek's doctor who helped him through his depression. "She suggested I try to get back into doing some activity and she guided me through the bad times."

Today Derek has a daily exercise programme that would put many other younger people to shame - he weight trains for one hour, cycles for one hour and on alternate days runs for one to three hours.

While Derek's exercise programme is more than most could manage, Parkinsons New Zealand is encouraging anyone with Parkinson's to exercise on a daily basis.

"People with Parkinson's are advised to get around 20 to 30 minutes of exercise each day," said Parkinson's New Zealand National Director Deirdre O'Sullivan. "Exercise helps to improve body strength and muscle tone, and may slow the progression of the disease. Stretching exercises are particularly beneficial."

Exercises to build strength and flexibility are part of an exercise booklet and poster produced by Parkinson's New Zealand as part of this year's Parkinson's Awareness Week.

"Our new exercise booklet and poster aim to enable people with Parkinson's to perform daily exercise routines in their own homes," said Ms O'Sullivan.

Parkinson's is a progressive, neurological disorder which can affect everyday activities such as talking, walking, swallowing and writing. The condition occurs when cells in the part of the brain that controls movement are lost. These cells produce dopamine, a chemical messenger that enables people to perform smooth movements.

Regular, moderate exercise has been shown to improve motor function without an increase in medication for a person with Parkinson's.

The exercise booklet has been written by Otago University physiotherapy tutor Annie Fisher and Parkinsons New Zealand Field Officer Paula Ryan.

Funding for the booklet and poster has come from ACC, the J. R. McKenzie Trust and the Rehabilitation Welfare Trust.

As for Derek, a veteran of numerous half and full marathons, his next challenge is the Auckland marathon at the end of October.


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