New Help for People with Parkinson's and other Movement Disorders

People with Parkinson's are finding new help to cope with the challenges of their disease thanks to a new program developed by Professor Janet Hamburg, Chair of the Dance Department at the University of Kansas.

Professor Hamburg, a Certified Movement Analyst (CMA), today demonstrated a new groundbreaking exercise regimen used successfully on Parkinson's patients that improves quality of life and maintains a fuller range of movement.

The exercises can result in increased energy even if used only 36 minutes a day.

Hamburg developed the program in 2002 after realizing that exercise programs that were simple and fun, and yet effective, were not available to many, especially those who were homebound or restricted in their ability to enjoy moving.

"Traditional exercises are limiting in their use of space," Hamburg explained, "and they keep people from developing or recovering a full range of movement."

"People think of exercise as strength and flexibility training, but there is benefit in other forms of movement," Hamburg explained.

Unlike typical exercise routines, Hamburg's program employs/involves expressive as well as functional movement, and builds the mover's capacity for increased energy and enjoyment.

"Unfortunately, the typical exercises a patient is given tend to focus on the pie-shaped wedge of space directly in front of us," said Hamburg. "They don't acknowledge the 360-degree sphere of space around our bodies.

An important part of life is moving fully in this sphere. The spines of most people with Parkinson's tend to fold forward and downward; as we age, we pull in, our limbs shorten. If we don't work to maintain our ability to move fully in our 360-degree world, we literally will fold in on ourselves as we age."

Hamburg's work has been heralded by the Parkinson's Disease Foundation, based at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. According to

Robin Anthony Elliott, Executive Director of the group, "This is a major contribution to the education of people with Parkinson's and to meeting their needs in the areas of quality of life and well-being." He called the work "fun," adding, "It's not taking your medicine."

Ruth Hagestuen, Director of Field Services for the National Parkinson's Foundation in Miami, says, "There's something about doing movement to music together that creates energy that lifts the spirit.

The combination of a really good leader -- Janet contributes enormously to this -- may motivate people to be more faithful about doing this than other kinds of exercise they've been assigned to do."

Hamburg's program is now accessible to Parkinson's patients and care providers on a DVD, Motivating Moves for People with Parkinson's.