Students Help Parkinsons Patients

August 03, 2007 (PRLEAP.COM) Education News
Ft Myers – Personal Trainer students at Heritage Institute in Ft Myers launched an innovative new program in early 2007 to help Parkinson’s patients.
“The healing power of fitness training is amazing,” said Heritage Personal Trainer Instructor, Carol Stockdale. “Seriously, I’m humbled by what I’m witnessing here.”

The revolutionary Heritage experiment was born when a Heritage Therapeutic Massage instructor, Ron Stephens, who has Parkinson’s himself, approached Stockdale with an idea about serving the Parkinson’s community.

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that often impairs the sufferer’s motor skills and speech. The disease belongs to a group of conditions called movement disorders. It is characterized by muscle rigidity, tremor, a slowing of physical movement and, in extreme cases, a complete loss of physical movement. There is no cure, but fitness training can provide some relief from symptoms.
“The value of exercise for Parkinson’s patients cannot be overstated,” said Stephens. “An exercise agenda offers stimulation to the various neurological pathways, increasing the capacity to counteract the progression of symptoms.”
Stephens introduced Stockdale to Jeanne Csuy, an Outreach Coordinator for the National Parkinson’s Foundation. Together, they devised a plan to help local Parkinson’s patients. Every Wednesday, a group of eight Parkinson’s sufferers visits the Heritage Institute Personal Training Lab, and the results so far have been very encouraging.
“We start them off with a complete fitness assessment,” said Stockdale. “From there, we establish goals and the strategies to meet those goals.

Sometimes the goals are very rudimentary. One patient simply wanted to be able to stand up straight. The disease constricts and atrophies muscles that most of us take for granted, and this poor man had become permanently hunched over. Our students designed an exercise regimen that gently worked his chest muscles. For week after week, he worked the program. He has been delighted with his progress, and I can’t begin to describe the sense of accomplishment our students feel.”
These special needs clients pose many additional challenges for the students. There’s a high risk of falling. Many of the clients use walkers, and creative approaches can be required in the design of effective exercises. It is, of course, also critical to work with the patient’s physician to ensure safety.

“My husband, Gerald, has had therapy at Heritage for the last three weeks, said Madelaine Deragon. “I have noticed many good changes in his lifestyle. He has been able to put his shoes and socks on by himself. His walking is very much improved with less shuffling of his feet. It takes him less time to get dressed now, and he can get out of his chair by himself. He’s more physically and mentally confident.”

Diana Ross, caregiver of Mr. Jack Johnstone said “Jack looks forward to his weekly therapy to enhance his walking ability with his walker. He has very little mobility. Working with his trainer gives him the courage to tackle every day tasks. Each day, he practices the exercises that the trainers give him. Jack is very fortunate to have the trainers at Heritage, and he wants to strive to be the best he can be.”

The students have found the experience inspiring. Three students – Kendrick Moore, Tiffany Bailey, and Cecilia Colon - have even taken seminars on “Parkinson’s and the Art of Moving” so that they can be more effective in helping these patients.
“I have a new-found respect for my chosen profession,” said Heritage Institute Personal Trainer student, Tiffany Bailey. “These people aren’t coming for body-building or to lose weight. We’re helping them to regain fundamental aspects of their quality of life. I’m going to love my new career!”
For more information about Heritage Institute, visit
- end -

Heritage College and Heritage Institute operate in Denver, Colorado; Kansas City, Missouri; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Fort Myers, Florida; Jacksonville, Florida; Falls Church, Virginia; and Manassas, Virginia. Heritage College and Heritage Institute provide comprehensive job placement at no additional cost, as well as alumni support for its diverse student population. Education programs are designed to lead to careers as a: Massage Therapist, Medical Assistant, X-Ray Medical Tech, Esthetician, Surgical Tech, Personal Trainer, Pharmacy Tech, or Cosmetologist. For more information about Heritage, visit or call (888) 334-7339.

- end -

Media Contact:

Jay Casper
Heritage Education