New exercise class for Parkinson's sufferers

A new weekly exercise class, geared specifically to people who have Parkinson's, is due to start at the Swan Leisure Centre in Berwick early in the New Year.

Sunday, 12th November 2017, 7:27 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 4:24 am
Colleen Heywood with fitness instructor Kevin.

Active Northumberland has been working with Parkinsons UK to develop the class where people can come along and participate and then have a coffee and a chat afterwards.

Parkinson’s is a progressive, neurodegenerative condition that is often accompanied by impaired balance, walking and a reduced quality of life.

Simple exercises focused on establishing a stable base and improving strength and balance can help those with the condition and may reduce the incidence of falls which people with Parkinson’s can be more susceptible to.

Colleen Heywood, from Berwick, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 15 years ago when she was just 39. She has been attending exercise classes at the Swan Centre in Berwick, for almost two years.

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“I was referred to the Swan Centre through the GP referral scheme. When I first started my exercise class Fit For Life, I couldn’t turn my head and I couldn’t get myself off the floor. After 12 months, the improvement in my mobility was significant. I was able to achieve full rotation of my head and could get myself off the floor. It was brilliant and just what I needed at that time.

“Unfortunately, Parkinson’s is a degenerative condition and my body continued to decline to such an extent that I didn’t feel able to take part in my regular class. My instructor Kevin was great. He persisted in encouraging me to keep going and he contacted Parkinson’s UK for a tailored exercise regime which he helps me with and which I am able to complete at my own pace.

“I am so impressed with the staff at Active Northumberland. They look on customers as individuals and consider their needs. It is so much more than a sports centre. To me, it is a significant part of my primary health care and I think there are so many more people living in the community that could benefit from their services.”

Over the coming months, representatives from Parkinson’s UK will be coming up to Berwick to train Active Northumberland staff in aspects of the condition. For example, one of the symptoms of Parkinson’s can be a complete lack of facial expression, and therefore being able to read body language is really important for an instructor working with someone with the disease.

Coun Cath Homer, of Northumberland County Council, said: “Knowing what types of exercise to do can be very daunting if you have a medical condition. Our instructors are professionally qualified and are there to help, advise and support those who wish to make activity a regular part of their life.

“We run a very successful GP referral scheme where doctors and other health professionals refer individuals who they feel would benefit from physical activity to help them improve their medical conditions. The new exercise class for Parkinson’s sufferers is an extension of this work.”

Vivienne Rogerson, area development manager for Parkinson’s UK, said: “We are trying to reach out to people with Parkinson’s in north Northumberland and the Borders area, offering them the opportunities to be more active. Latest research has shown that exercise is just as important as medication for people with Parkinson’s.

“We’ve listened to Colleen and this collaborative project with staff at Active Northumberland in Berwick is a great example of how we can develop specific classes that will benefit the health and mental well-being of many others with Parkinson’s.”