Parkinson's dance: Dancing away symptoms

Uncontrollable tremors and problems with balance and speech are just a few of the issues Parkinson’s patients deal with everyday. While medicine and exercise can help, the cha-cha and the Charleston may also reduce symptoms.

David Akins and his wife Marti dance at home for pleasure. Akins has Parkinson’s disease, and dancing used to be a way to just have fun.

David Levanthal, Co-founder of Dance for Parkinson’s disease, says, "More and more we're seeing neurologists and physicians referring people to these classes…it make them move bigger, more freely, and more rhythmically than they might in everyday life."

People like Kay Perkins, a participant of Dance for Parkinson’s disease, felt their symptoms improving.

Perkins says, "We find ourselves having opposing muscles fighting one another and this gives us an opportunity to walk like normal people and do normal things."

While neurologist Sheila Baez-Torres says no one fully understands why it works, it is being highly recommended.

Studies from the National Institutes of Health and Johns Hopkins University suggest dancing for Parkinson’s can improve balance and walking. Dr. Paez-Torres says it might also help with cognitive problems.

"You have to learn the steps and match the steps you learn with rhythm," says Dr. Paez-Torres.

Akins says the class is improving his quality of life and says, “I feel great!” Akins gets to show off his moves and also slow down his disease.

Studies show dance meets many, if not all the recommended components of exercise programs designed for Parkinson’s patients. However, more research needs to be done to figure out the long-term effectiveness of dance therapy. Right now, there are about 60 dances for Parkinson’s disease programs around the world.

To learn more about how to bring one to your community go to DanceForParkinsons.org


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