Gloria Winters mug cheyenne and woodmen column

In “The Silver Chair” by C.S. Lewis, the main characters are summoned into Narnia to find the missing crown prince. Years earlier, an evil witch abducted the prince and placed him under a spell. Once a day, for an hour, the prince would wake from the magic spell and realize who he was. But during that hour, he was chained to a silver chair and he could not escape. When he is rescued from the chair and the power of the spell, this is what he had to say:

Then he turned and surveyed his rescuers; and the something wrong, whatever it was, had vanished from his face. “How long have I been in the power of the witch?” “It is more than ten years since your Highness was lost in the woods at the north side of Narnia.” “Ten years!” said the Prince, drawing his hand across his face as if to rub away the past. “Yes, I believe you. For now that I am myself I can remember that enchanted life, though while I was enchanted I could not remember my true self.”’

My true self. These are words I have heard spoken by people with Parkinson’s Disease. “I am stuck inside my body and can’t get out.” “I want my true self back.”

For years, we didn’t know how to unlock the body from the spell of Parkinson’s freezing and rigidity. Now, with breakthrough research, we are finally beginning to understand what happens to the brain and how it puts the body under a spell.

Rigidity, tremors and incoordination are all symptoms of the brain not producing enough dopamine. As a result, the communication to the body decreases and the ability to produce normal movements stops. Medicines are available to treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s, although none actually reverse the disease. Now we know that with a combination of exercise and medicine, we can address the protection of the brain, reverse the damage and optimize physical capacity.

We call it “Exercise as Medicine.” And it is the key to waking the body up from under the spell of Parkinson’s.

According to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation, as many as one million Americans live with Parkinson's disease, which is more than the number of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Lou Gehrig's disease combined. Approximately 60,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with Parkinson's each year.

The Y is partnering with Parkinson’s Wellness Recovery (PWR!) to create a comprehensive, neuroplasticity-principled program that integrates the latest exercise and wellness research. The Parkinson’s Exercise Program (PEP) provides a supportive exercise environment to optimize brain recovery and repair. We utilize “Exercise as Medicine” to increase quality of life so that people with Parkinson’s can begin to get out from under the spell and move again.

If you or someone you know is affected by Parkinson’s, consider attending some classes in our Parkinson’s Exercise Program, and see firsthand how exercise can optimize brain recovery and repair. Learn more at ppymca.org/parkinsons.

Gloria Winters is a doctor of physical therapy who specializes in orthopedics and exercise physiology. She is chief medical officer for the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region with a focus on health care integration in the community. Contact her with questions or topic ideas at gwinters@ppymca.org.

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