Exercise activities specifically for those with Parkinson’s could be made available to everyone in Scotland, after a national charity was given a funding boost.
Parkinson’s UK Scotland will receive £140,417 over the next three years from the National Lottery Community Fund to establish the first exercise network.
Annie Macleod, director of Parkinson’s UK Scotland, said: “Parkinson’s UK Scotland is delighted that the National Lottery is supporting our plan to make structured Parkinson’s-specific exercise activities available for everyone in Scotland regardless of their location or stage of Parkinson’s.
“There is no cure for Parkinson’s, however, there is growing evidence that structured exercise may slow its progress and people with Parkinson’s tell us that exercise is the single biggest aid to managing symptoms and improving quality of life.
“This award will enable us to work with partners and develop a network that will broaden access to exercise for people with Parkinson’s everywhere.”
The charity has already developed an exercise framework and in Scotland, in partnership with the Scottish Government, has appointed Julie Jones as it’s first clinical research fellowship.
Ms Jones, an experienced physiotherapist, has been tasked with exploring the feasibility of a collaborative approach to exercise between the NHS and the community sector – offering a sustainable approach for the Parkinson’s community.
The model of care is based upon current evidence and places an emphasis upon supporting behaviour change, delivered by specialist exercise prescribers, to enable people with Parkinson’s to embed exercise into their everyday lives.
Ms Jones said: “Properly targeted exercising can transform the lives of people with Parkinson’s. The benefits of exercise in managing physical Parkinson’s symptoms are well established.
“There’s now a growing realisation that it also appears to lead to physiological changes within the brain that may have a condition-modifying effect.
“This award from the National Lottery will enable Parkinson’s UK Scotland to bring physiotherapists and exercise and leisure providers together with people affected by the condition to deliver a nationwide network of exercise activities that has the potential to change people’s lives.”
One of the many people already seeing the life-changing benefits of exercise is former teacher Janet Kerr from Lochgelly in Fife.
Ms Kerr has been living with Parkinson’s for three years after being diagnosed with the condition at the age of 47.
She said: “Exercise is as important to me as my Parkinson’s medication and it makes an enormous difference in helping me deal with my symptoms.
“I cycle, swim, or rollerskate every day and despite my Parkinson’s I’m fitter than ever.
“Exercise gives a huge boost to my wellbeing and I’m so pleased that this award means that so many others will get the chance to experience the benefits too.”
Access to Parkinson’s-specific exercise varies across Scotland but area that is ahead of the curve is the Highlands.
High Life Highland has worked in partnership with Parkinson’s UK Scotland to create six Parkinson’s exercise classes across the region.
Carole Jackman, a physiotherapist with NHS Highland, helped pioneer the project.
She said: “It’s been fantastic to see Parkinson’s exercise classes blossom in Highland.
“Doing the right type of exercise is vital and people are reporting terrific progress as a result of participating.”