Healthy Aging: Part 1 Get Moving

“On the golf course, everything is starting to click for me!” said my father at dinner. “My knees, my elbows, my neck…”

Getting old can be rough, and humor is one way to help get through life’s day-to-day challenges. There is also scientific support for the fact that socializing with others [1] is a part of a trifecta of strategies to help maintain quality of life and which includes:
1. Exercising your body,
2. Exercising your mind, and
3. Socializing with family and friends

In Part 1 of this series on Healthy Aging, we will be focusing on programs to get you moving. Writing this blog post is personal for me as my father, Dave, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease about 6 years ago. He has engaged in many types of exercises since that time including boxing, dance, drums, and physical therapy involving resistance training and moving through ladders for balance.

While he explains that he becomes very tired after his workouts, and sometimes wonders if it is really helping, he remains optimistic. “Exercise is the key to mobility. I enjoy the adrenaline rush that I feel when I have a good work out.” Go for it, dad!

Managing ET with Tai Chi and Yoga

Leisure World in Maryland is a program that provides many activities for seniors. One program is Tai Chi for ET led by Dr. T. Sean Vasaitis, PhD, MS EHS, a professor at the University of Maryland East Shore School of Pharmacy. Dr. Vasaitis has been studying Tai Chi for nearly 20 years including spending time in Northwest China to refine his art. He instructs patients how to improve balance, calm the body/ reduce stress, and increase functional mobility.

Yoga has also been shown to improve tremor and maintain low levels of anxiety for people living with movement disorders. [3]

Managing Parkinson’s Disease (PD) With Boxing and Dance

There are many programs throughout the United States focused on helping patients with PD by getting in the ring. One example is Rock Steady Boxing in Southern Florida. The program offers patients rigorous exercise, emphasizing gross motor movement, balance, core strength, and rhythm. These exercises can help with range of motion, flexibility, posture, gait, and activities of daily living.

Another approach to exercise for patients with PD is participating in dance classes. Specifically, there is a program in Pasadena, California, called Dance for Parkinson’s that initially focused on patients with Parkinson’s but has expanded to other neurological disorders. The idea behind these classes is to focus the patient’s mind and body to move with purpose, creativity, musicality and grace. Many participants report a joyous experience that enhances one’s balance, while simultaneously developing control and freedom of movement.

Check back next month with Part 2 in this series on Healthy Aging on the benefits of practicing relaxation techniques (such as meditation).

1. Mayo Clinic. Stress relief from laughter. It’s no joke.
2. Scult M et al. Adv Mind Body Med. 2015;29(1): 26–33.
3. Vance NE et al. Comp Ther Clin Prac. 2019;34:17-22.