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Exercise Class for Parkinson's Sufferers Hopes to "Delay the Disease"

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Students in personal trainer Nichole Holze's exercise class took turns going around a circle and shouting the names of different colors during a Friday, March 30, 2012, class at the Cedar Rapids JayCees building.

"Let's do it again," Holze said as the cycle finished, "But this time I want you to extend your hands into the air, and really shout it out."

It's not a conventional exercise, but Holze's students aren't typical fitness enthusiasts. The dozen attendees consist of diagnosed Parkinson's Disease patients, as well as their family and caretakers.

Holze's class, "Delay the Disease," is part of a national exercise program designed to help stave off some of the early symptoms of Parkinson's, a neurological disorder that can severely limit muscle operation and movement.

The 12-week regimen was developed by both medical and physical fitness experts to help Parkinson's sufferers preserve their strength and balance. The exercises encourage patients to stay loose, limber and maintain an active life.

"It's a neuromuscular disease, so regular exercise can help to regenerate the neurological pathways," Holze said.

Some of the more unique portions of Delay the Disease include exercising the face and vocal cords, as Parkinson's sufferers can lose their ability to properly express themselves. The class spends part of the time practicing making loud long "e" and "o" sounds, as those stretch many of the muscles in the face, as well as give the voice a good workout.

Holze first became interested in teaching the class when a close friend of her family, Doug Kirk was diagnosed 10 years ago. Kirk has learned about Delay the Disease at a Des Moines conference and introduced the idea to Holze. Now he's enrolled in her class., just one of several steps he's taken to control the progress of his disease through fitness.

"I bike a lot too, because anything that involves extended and long movements is good as Parkinson's tends to attack that first," he said.

The Cedar Rapids Parkinson's Foundation is helping to sponsor the class, which costs $15. Iowa has one of the top five largest Parkinson's populations in America, and President John Krumbholz is hoping to get the word out that there are ways to cope with the prognosis.

"Living with Parkinson's is not a death sentence, it just means you have to make some life changes," he said.

Delay the Disease

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