The Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center in Scottsdale has always offered exercise classes, but people might not know that they also offer a special program for those battling Parkinson’s disease. PWR!Moves and PWR!Circuit were introduced at the JCC in January 2016 by Lynn Staub, a certified personal trainer. PWR stands for Parkinson’s Wellness and Recovery. These are research based, integrated exercise and wellness programs designed to optimize the brain’s neuroplasticity – the ability of the brain to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections – in those with PD.
Lynn received hands-on training in PWR! at the Parkinson’s Wellness and Recovery Gym in Tucson with Becky Farley, Ph.D., M.S., P.T. Dr. Farley developed the LSVT BIG exercise program used in hospitals and by physical therapists working with PD patients. PWR! was created – and the gym established – when she realized there was a need for a program for PD patients after they finish therapy and return to their daily routines/lives.
“In my training with members who have Parkinson’s, I was seeing that there was nowhere for them to go after physical therapy,” says Lynn. “I thought there should be some type of fitness program for them to progress in therapy in a comfortable environment with other people with Parkinson’s.” Her research led her to Dr. Farley and PWR!.
Lynn is also a JCC fitness instructor; so when she proposed offering the PWR! classes, the JCC was on board with the program. Lynn also has experience from working years ago as a fitness consultant for a company called Brain Savers, an exercise program developed by a neurologist to help slow the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Before starting the PWR! program, Lynn was invited to speak to the Scottsdale Parkinson’s Support Group. “I was able to speak about the JCC and about the program we were starting,” says Lynn. “This was in December 2015 and we started the program in January 2016. The majority of membership came from that support group.”
Through the Scottsdale group, Lynn connected with the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute. The JCC and the Center have formed a partnership where they hold classes and special events like the Parkinson’s Health & Fitness Day twice a year. The Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center also offers the PWR! program.
Lynn explains how the PWR! program helps those with PD: “Research has shown that exercise is medicine for people with Parkinson’s. It will not rid them of the disease, but all of the medical research indicates that exercise is more than strength, balance, coordination, flexibility and cardiovascular function. There’s also a physiological tool that protects at-risk or compromised neurons, guides brain health into protection and repair and helps slow down the progression of the disease.”
She has witnessed these benefits firsthand. “The people who have been participating two times a week have significantly increased their balance and strength…” says Lynn. “They have really slowed down the progression of the disease and that’s what’s really important.”
A doctor’s recommendation is not needed to attend; participants just need to be able to walk 100 feet without a walker, help or assistance. The classes are free to members of the JCC and $5 per class for non-members. Lynn prefers that those interested call her before signing up to give her a chance to speak to them and determine the best point for them to start. She notes that it is not unusual for her to send people back to physical therapy before they can participate.
In February, Lynn was invited to lead the opening warmup for the annual Walk the Fight & Run the Distance for Parkinson’s fundraiser in Tempe. “A lot of fun people from the JCC were there with me,” she says.
JCC is offering two new programs this year: Parkinson’s Boxing and Parkinson’s Hydrorider Aqua Cycling. Although Lynn is not involved with these classes, she says that their popularity has been gaining momentum.
As her classes grow at the JCC, so do the relationships with the Scottsdale Parkinson’s Support Group and the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center. One person recently commented that the JCC is becoming a “hub” of its own, which makes Lynn happy. “It’s really rewarding and a lot of fun,” she says.
For more information on Parkinson’s wellness at the JCC, call 480-481-7090 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The JCC offers three levels of PWR!Moves classes:
In this entry-level class, the majority of exercises and stretches are done in a chair or while standing. Participants must be able to walk 100 feet on their own with or without a cane or walker and be able to cognitively and independently follow instructions.
This class includes PWR!Moves 1 movements, in addition to prone and supine floor exercises. Participants must be able to walk 100 feet on their own with or without a cane or walker, get up and down from the floor on their own with or without the use of a chair and be able to cognitively and independently follow instructions.
This class integrates previous PWR!Moves skills into a more advanced workout with instructor-guided exercise stations. Stations include cardio, strength training, agility, coordination, balance and flexibility. Participants must be able to walk 150 feet on their own with or without a cane or walker, get up and down from the floor on their own with or without the use of a chair, get on and off equipment and follow group instructions independently.