Parkinsons Disease
Parkinsons disease is a disorder that affects nerve cells (neurons) in the part of the brain that controls muscle movement. Nearly one million Americans currently live with Parkinsons and approximately 50,000 more receive a diagnosis of the disease every year.
Parkinson's symptoms develop gradually, typically beginning with trembling in one hand. Advanced stages may include tremor, slowness of voluntary movement, shuffling gait, balance issues, and slurred speech.
Parkinson's disease results from the loss of dopamine-producing cells in the substantia nigra, a small region of the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, which is released by nerve cells to send signals to other nerve cells.
Dopamine is required to control muscle movement and therefore having lower levels of dopamine is believed to be what causes the most common symptoms of Parkinson's.
Parkinson's is not easily diagnosed because there is no specific test for this disease. At this time, there is no known cure for PD but there are many promising therapies & trials underway that have been able to slow and or stop the progression of PD.
The variety and severity of symptoms vary from patient to patient and most patients do not experience all of the symptoms associated with PD. The progression of symptoms often begins on one side of the body and over time, may progress to the opposite side.
People with Parkinson's experience difficulties transmitting neurological impulses, in some ways similar to a telephone switchboard with some of the lines crossed. Parkinson's symptoms can also be compared to surfing the internet with a slow speed dial up connection including the pauses, delays & occasional disconnects.
Local chapters of the The National Parkinson Foundation can provide information about Parkinsons support groups in your area. Some of the larger local chapters offer organized exercise programs for members of their community. Daily exercise may be as important as medication in treating the symptoms of PD. Strength, flexibility, & mobility can be maintained and improved with daily exercise therapy.
Why Exercise is So Important

Daily exercise therapy is one of the best things that you can do for yourself to counteract the negative effects of PD & other neurological & muscular disorders. A lack of physical activity reduces the amount of oxygen to the brain, contributes to further cell damage, loss of cognitive skills and muscle control.
Exercise brings additional oxygen & glucose to the brain, both of which are crucial to brain function. The body responds by forming new capillaries to bring the additional blood to nerve cells and by boosting brain chemicals that protect neurons and strengthen new neuronal connections. We have learned from stroke victims that the human brain has the ability to create new connections and bypass damaged areas to regain lost motor skills & muscle control. Remarkable results have been achieved, over time, with daily mental & physical exercise therapy. Mental concentration on repetitive physical movements can provide benefits to our muscles as well as our mental ability to control them.
When nerve cells are deprived of stimuli they atrophy, suggesting that stimulation of the central nervous system by physical activity may retard the loss of nerve cells in the brain and elsewhere. Exercise has been shown to enhance blood flow to various parts of the brain as well as to increase the speed with which nerve messages travel through the brain.
In addition to the effects of Parkinsons, most people diagnosed with this disease are over the age of 50 and therefore are also experiencing the normal effects of aging.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons:
  • As muscles age, they begin to shrink and take longer to respond
  • Tendons become stiffer & less able to tolerate stress
  • Handgrip strength decreases, making routine tasks more difficult
  • The heart muscle becomes less capable, making us tire more quickly
  • Joint motion becomes more restricted & flexibility decreases
  • Joints become inflamed and arthritic as the cushioning cartilage begins to breakdown
However the good news is, that we now know that most of the changes in our musculoskeletal system that were attributed to normal aging are in fact the result of inactivity and or insufficient physical exercise. The less physical activity and exercise we do the less capable we become.
According to the Mayo Clinic, "Exercise has important benefits for everyone regardless of age or physical condition... When your condition threatens to immobilize you, Exercise keeps you moving... to retain your mobility & function, use it or lose it".
As an exercise therapist for the Parkinson Assn. of S.W. Florida (a National Parkinson Foundation Center of Excellence), Susan Branco, a member of the National Council on Aging & the American Senior Fitness Association has seen first hand the positive results that her therapeutic exercise program has on participants in her classes.

Susan's program (described below) is now available on video, for use in the privacy of your home. If you or someone you know has Parkinsons, using this program daily, can make a difference.

Therapeutic Fitness Program This seated exercise program was designed for people with Parkinsons Disease and other neurological or muscular disorders. An exercise program like this one, which is intended to meet the needs of individuals with movement disorders, should be a main component in your treatment plan. This program includes stretching and strengthening routines that will help to minimize the negative effects that P.D. and other neurological and muscular disorders can have on your body. Using this program regularly will help to improve overall flexibility and fitness level so that you can maintain a higher level of independence. Caregivers will benefit from doing this program as well. Note: This program includes 1 exercise band. Additional exercise bands may be ordered separately (additional band required if you plan on using this program with a partner). 1 or 2 lb. hand weights are recommended.

Therapeutic Fitness Program DVD & Exercise Band
Therapeutic Fitness Program

Therapeutic Fitness

Therapeutic Fitness

Learn More About Osteoporosis The Importance of Exercise for those with Arthritis Learn why some people age faster than others
Customer Comments - Note: individual results may vary*
I have found that doing your Therapeutic program does make my Parkinson Disease easier to live with. Thank you.*

Margaret A.
Spencerport, NY

. . . Thank you so very much for this (Therapeutic) DVD. My husband had a stroke in 2005, and is slowly recovering. I was diagnosed in 2002 with Parkinson's. We work out with this every other day, and have both noticed a big difference!!!!*

Thank you so very much!!!

Marjorie L.
Vancouver, WA

Hi Susan,

Your (Therapeutic) tape has been circulating among our board members - response has been quite positive. The education committee reported it had great energy and enthusiasm & liked the music. Our physical therapist felt it was appropriate for PD patients...

We would like to purchase two copies of the tape for our lending library / support groups...*


Arizona Chapter
The National Parkinson Foundation
Dear Susan,

This is the second tape I've ordered. My husband has Parkinson's disease.
He was always very athletic and this program helps him to stay as physically fit as possible.
It is also a morale booster for him because he can actively participate.*

Thank you,
A. G.
Goleta, CA
Be Fit Over Fifty

I purchased your (Therapeutic) exercise program on a VHS tape more than 8 years ago when my wife was diagnosed with Parkinson's. 5 or 6 years ago I upgraded to the DVD. She does the program 3 times each week and I believe that it has been really helpful.. . . .*

Thank You Very Much. Your thoughtfulness is really appreciated.

M.W. Steward
San Antonio, TX 78258
To: BeFitOverFifty,

The Handwriting improvement program is very needed since my handwriting is unreadable to me from Parkinson's... I was a teacher and had to take disability for lack of handwriting.*
Thanks for including it !!

Beverly B.
Stockbridge, GA
To: Susan

I received the Therapeutic Fitness video. My daughter got a kick out of the video's title, "Fit Over 50." I turned 42 yesterday and have being living w/ Parkinson since 38. I already previewed the video. I know it's going to help me lots….. Thanks for taking the time to make this video. I've been looking for one for over a year and no one knew of one. Just by pure coincidence I saw it on the Internet. And...of course I had to buy it.*

Carmen R.
Orlando, FL
Hi Susan,

I ordered the Therapeutic Fitness Program and really feel doing the exercises 3x a week has helped me with my Parkinson's Disease.* Thank you

Gwen T.
Waterloo ON
I'm ordering 2 more copies of your Therapeutic video as gifts. I have had one for months and use it each day. Keep up your good work.*

John B.
Vienna, VA
Susan, Thank you for this (Therapeutic dvd) - my husband has recently been diagnosed with Parkinsons - so the learning journey has just begun. Fortunately there are organizations such as yours who do help.*

Many Thanks,
Lorraine Cronje
Somerset West, South Africa
I have been looking for something like (your Therapeutic dvd) for a long time. I am very excited about getting started! My husband is also joining me.*

Thank you,
Barbara B.
Loudonville, NY

Hi Susan,
I just want to thank you for the videos! I have to tell you that it's the best purchase I've made in a long time. My husband was diagnosed with Parkinson's last January. It's been hard to get him past the mental and emotional stress of the news... He is 75 now so all of this has really taken a toll on him. I saw your video "Therapeutic Fitness Program", ordered it and we have been working at it for 2 weeks now, 3 times a week. He actually looks forward to it...!!
Today I asked him to start doing the handwriting exercise and he has agreed.
I really appreciate you giving people a way to deal with this stressful part of their life.

Thanks again!
Becky B____
London, KY