Movement issues are central to Parkinson’s disease (PD), even in the early stages before complications may become obvious. From the time of diagnosis and throughout the course of the disease, movement and staying physically active are essential. Both regular exercise and physical therapy can help people with PD keep moving well and for as long as possible. The Parkinson’s Outcomes Project, the largest clinical study of PD, conducted across the Parkinson’s Foundation’s Centers of Excellence network, showed that physical activity of at least 2.5 hours a week can slow decline in quality of life. Plus, some studies suggest that physical therapy, including gait, balance, resistance training, and regular exercise of sufficient duration may slow the progression of the disease.
Physical therapists with a neurological specialization are an important part of the PD health care team and should be consulted early, both for an initial evaluation as well as to address any movement problems and encourage exercise as a part of treatment to minimize problems later. Heather Cianci is Outpatient Neurological Team leader at the Dan Aaron Parkinson’s Rehabilitation Center, part of the University of Pennsylvania Health System in Philadelphia, a Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence. She says an early consultation can take advantage of a particularly valuable window of opportunity to address movement issues, and improving movement and physical impairments can improve one’s mental state as well.
- Fitness Counts: A Body Guide to Parkinson’s Disease (book)
- Episode 3: The Benefits of Exercise for People with Parkinson's (podcast)
- Episode 19: Ask the Parkinson’s Foundation Helpline: Your Exercise Questions Answered (podcast)
- PD Health @ Home: Fitness Fridays
About This Episode
Released: September 22, 2020
Heather Cianci, PT, MS, GCS
Heather Cianci, PT, MS, GCS is the Outpatient Neurological Team Leader and founding therapist of the Dan Aaron Parkinson’s Rehabilitation Center, Penn Therapy & Fitness at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, PA – part of the University of Pennsylvania. Heather received her Bachelor’s in Physical Therapy from the University of Scranton in Scranton, PA and her Master’s in Gerontology from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. She has been a physical therapist since 1994 and received her board certification in geriatrics in 1999 from the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties. Heather is an LSVT® BIG certified clinician, a PWR! certified clinician, a graduate of the Rock Steady Boxing program for Parkinson’s and is certified in Music and Memory®. She serves as an LSVT® BIG Faculty Instructor for LSVT Global, Inc., and Co-coordinator and PT Faculty for the Parkinson’s Foundation’s (PF) Allied Team Training Program. Heather has authored book chapters on rehabilitative strategies for PD, and Frontotemporal Degeneration. She also is the author of the PF educational manual “Fitness Counts.” Heather has lectured for various state Physical Therapy Associations, the former Parkinson Disease Foundation, the Michael J. Fox Foundation, national continuing education companies, and Philadelphia-area conferences and support groups. Her research includes movement strategies for bed mobility, falls, freezing of gait, and functional movement disorders. She teaches about rehabilitation and PD at Thomas Jefferson University’s (Philadelphia, PA) and Neumann University’s (Aston, PA) departments of PT. Heather is a former Board member of CurePSP® and team member of the COPE program (Comprehensive Outpatient Atypical Parkinsonism Evaluation) at Pennsylvania Hospital’s Parkinson’s Disease & Movement Disorder Center.
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