Stories from the Front: Staying active

Five mornings a week, Carole Hartzman and her exercise buddy take a 50-minute stroll along the waterfront. Twice a week, she attends a seniors’ fitness class.

Carole, 70, has always been physically active, but after she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in November 2003 and evaluated at the Maritime Parkinson Physiotherapy Clinic in Halifax, she stepped up her exercise program and bought an elliptical trainer and universal gym machine to work out at home.

“I try to do three things a day. A walk, an exercise class and a session on the elliptical trainer. Or maybe sessions on both machines plus a workout video. Anything that catches me that day, I do it,” says Carole.

The benefits are immediate and wide-ranging. “You move. Keeping the core body firm and tightening it allows me to get up from my chair. The stronger the body, the stronger everything else. Everything works better if I’m strong.”

Carole now has difficulty sometimes initiating movement. “I freeze in place, so I have to think, how I am going to get started again? If I want to go from the stove to the refrigerator, I have to consciously tell myself, look at a point that’s closer to the refrigerator, pick up your left foot, now start moving it. Once I release that frozen state, I move, but I have to march myself through the steps.”

Knowing that the clinic will assess her mobility, flexibility and balance every six months, Carole says, “I want my score to be high, so I do my best to do well on those exercises. It’s a motivator.”

She credits the late Dr. George Turnbull, a co-founder of the clinic, with setting her on the right track. “He emphasized that you have to exercise and you have to choose activities you’re enthusiastic about because if you don’t, you won’t continue them.”

Carole enjoys dancing, has taken voice therapy and singing lessons, learned tai chi, and anticipates adding her recently-acquired Nordic walking poles to her morning walks. “I do whatever comes to mind to keep me moving.”

Having travelled extensively with her husband, Carole recently took a weekend trip to New York, on her own, deliberately requesting wheelchair assistance at the airport. “I wanted to see what it was like using a wheelchair. It was an interesting experience because, on the one hand, you think the wheelchair is going to make you feel debilitated but, on the other hand, it gave me the opportunity and freedom to travel by myself.”

Carole’s exercise goal is “to keep myself mobile forever so that I may continue to enjoy the world outside my home.”

Read more Stories from the Front on Parkinson Society Canada’s website.

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