MANCHESTER — From the moment Maresa Bowen begins PumpeD Up, a 30-minute fitness class for people with Parkinson’s disease, participants are in constant motion.
PumpeD Up, held at the Manchester Community Library, is the result of a collaboration between Bowen, a certified clinical exercise physiologist and personal rrainer, and Lynne Taylor, a Manchester resident who was diagnosed with PD five years ago.
After Taylor and several other clients with PD had been referred by a local physical therapist to Well Built Wellness, Bowen’s personal training studio located at the Green Mountain Village Shops, Bowen and Taylor agreed there was a need in the community for a class that focused on fitness for those diagnosed with PD. However, Bowen stressed that anyone diagnosed with other forms of a neurodegenerative disease is welcome to join the class, as well.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder that affects the nervous system and the parts of the body controlled by nerves. According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, nearly one million people in the United States are living with PD, with roughly 90 million diagnosed each year.
The class, which has been well attended since its inception in July, is designed to accommodate all levels of capabilities. Every movement, stretch, and exercise is shown in a standing and a seated position, both methods providing benefit. Dumbbells of varying weight are available for those who want to use them.
From the first stretch to the last, Bowen keeps people moving. She uses big, exaggerated movements – fully rotating arms, extensively opening hips, deep forward lunges – to combat the shuffling movements of Parkinson’s.
“Motion is lotion,” Taylor said, referring to the benefits of exercise.
After Bowen introduces a stretch or an exercise, she walks around the room checking for proper technique and posture while Taylor demonstrates the move as she shouts out words like, “BAM! BAM! BAM!” or “PRESS!” She is incorporating her learnings from LSVT (Lee Silverman Voice Treatment), a treatment that trains people with PD to use their voice at a more normal loudness level.
Movements and exercises that work arm, leg, and core strength, which help to improve balance and gait, are repeated multiple times throughout class. Bowen has participants performing squats and planks, as well as boxing, an exercise that synchronizes the body and mind and has shown to be beneficial to those with Parkinson’s.
After throwing some well-controlled punches, Bowen ends the class with a few stretches – shoulder rolls back and forward and hip bends that create a nice stretch in the back of the thigh and behind the knee.
“There’s a sense of community within the people who have the disease,” Bowen said, happy with the comradery she feels in the class. “It’s been great seeing their progress.”
PumpeD Up is a free class held in the Hunter Community Room at Manchester Community Library each Monday from 9:15 am to 9:45 am. The group will not meet over the holidays, but class resumes on Jan. 8, 2024. For more information, visit mclvt.org.