July 15, 2016

Comments on Exercise DVDs for Seniors and People with Parkinson's from My Terrific PT Adviser

Fitness DVDs are a multimillion dollar business. Those targeting the elderly and patients with specific diseases like Parkinson's are a major part of the market.

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“There are tons of DVDs out there, 20 percent of them are purchased by older adults, and with few exceptions there is no evidence that they work,” said Edward McAuley, professor of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois.

McAuley led a new study to test the efficacy of a home-based DVD exercise program for people 65 and older. His results appear in the Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences.

I've acquired several DVDs of exercise programs for people with Parkinson's and for the elderly. Their seldom  opened plastic cases have been stacked up by my TV for a couple of  years.

Thanks to my neighborhood listserv, I really lucked out and found a terrific physical therapist who lives just a block away.  We've worked together for several months. I  want to share her exceptional guidance on making the best use of three of my fitness DVDs.

Tai chi is increasingly touted as a particularly good exercise program for those of us with Parkinson's. Here are two DVDs I bought after seeing good reviews:

Here's a fitness DVD, designed for people with Parkinson's:

Before you begin a DVD exercise regimen, experts recommend that you work with a physical therapist or other fitness professional to individualize your program based on your own symptoms and abilities. That advice is especially important for people with Parkinson's, since everybody's symptoms are different, and since every day is unique.
As you can see from the text below, I was lucky to work with Esther Bieri. She’s a physical therapist when she’s here in Washington, and a psychotherapist when she’s in her hometown --  Z├╝rich. She and her husband, an American,  are just completing a two-year stay in DC.

In the months we’ve worked together, Esther has become a treasured friend. I will miss her greatly when she leaves for Switzerland later this month.

Now, here’s that email from Esther:      

Dear John,

It’s been such a pleasure to see you build various exercise practices into your daily life. I think you’ve been working with a mindset like: “Move often and keep challenging yourself while listening to your body about when things are too fast or too much”. That seems wise and has you in amazing shape considering the health issues you’ve been dealing with! Getting three DVDs was a good idea because variety keeps you motivated.

One thing to definitely keep doing are your supine exercises that strengthen your core and stretch out the lower back. I think you’ve been doing them since your physical therapist from Georgetown showed them to you. A strong core makes everything easier and protects you from back and side pain.

When you work with the DVDs or my yoga exercises, I recommend ignoring the breathing instructions. Your breathing tends to be relatively fast, and so coordinating it with some of the movements would take away from their grounding, mindful qualities. What you can pay attention to, is to make sure you are breathing instead of holding the breath when you’re concentrating.

Here are my comments on your DVDs:
 This DVD includes many gentle, grounding practices.

Some of the warm-up exercises can raise your blood pressure, because they are lifting the arms above the head.

In the warm-up section, I recommend PAINT WITH LIGHT (4:00) and OPENING THE ENERGY GATES (4:53)

You can also skip the warm up section and go to one of the next chapters.

The sitting exercises (25:30) are warming up and gently stretching everything from the toes to the tongue. These are great for you to do in your bedroom when you’re a little bit low on energy.  I wouldn’t do the one where your head goes below the belly but all the others are safe. One prop is a tennis ball. You can have mine when I leave.

Easy Tai Chi (0:44) and Easy Tai Chi with Music (1.07) show gentle standing movements. Doing a few minutes of these regularly is very helpful for strengthening the muscles you need for walking, and for working on your balance and posture. You could do these on days you don’t have the energy for dancing. Both dancing and these standing movements are very grounding and therefore good for sleep and stress tolerance.

This DVD is great for days when your spirits and vitality are pretty high.

David Zid is an enthusiastic expert. He has great tips for challenging situations and excellent exercises for staying strong and mobile. The pacing is a quite fast and he works with many repetitions. Doing half as much as he’s modeling, and watching this DVD in a dosage of not more than 15 minutes at a time might be helpful. Some of the practices that bear the risk of falling (like things with the rope ladder) are better to only do when somebody is with you.

 I think chapter 3 of this DVD is a great complement to the other DVDs and good for days with medium energy. It includes a strengthening standing series (16:45) that you can do at your bed frame or with a chair in front of you and a seated series (23:30) that you’re already familiar with from yoga.

The standing practices include some back bending. It’s important to engage your core muscles when you do those (it helps to point the tailbone straight down). Also, I recommend taking more breaks than they do, and doing fewer repetitions on some of the more strenuous ones.

Before working with chapter 2, I would talk to your doctor regarding exercising with arms above the head and blood pressure. Chapter 2 also includes some dynamic bending of the lower back that might make your side/back pain worse.

Thank you!


Thank YOU, Esther!

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