Journey to Health TV Airs on the Belfast Public Access channel, Thursdays at 7:00 pm
Adapted from Kitchen Treaty and Cooking Light
When Dan Avener was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease some three years ago, he was “pretty depressed.” Then he decided he should meet some other people in the same situation so he wentto a support group. He met some wonderful people and he joined an exercise program.
“Now, I feel a lot better about dealing with the disease. Getting out is a lot better than sitting in the house feeling bad for myself. I didn’t think I was a support group person but it changed my life so much for the better,” he says.
And so did the exercise group as he watched people with Parkinson’s start to move better. In fact, so much for the better that Dan is now starting an outdoor recreation program in Belfast for people with disabilities. He held the first walk on Thursday, May 8, at 3 p.m. Participants met at the Boathouse, at the foot of Commercial Street in Belfast, and walked on the new path along the waterfront.
“I think a lot of people who receive a depressing diagnosis stay in their homes and feel sorry for themselves. It’s better to meet other people, especially other people in a similar situation, and get more engaged in life and getting exercise is a lot of it,” Dan says.
“I want this to be open to anyone with a disability, including obesity or troubles with mobility caused by age. I would encourage people to come with their caregiver, too. People can use their wheelchairs, walkers or a cane on the waterfront path,” he adds. “I just want to get people outside and moving and go from there.”
And he hopes the outdoor exercise program will grow from there, perhaps becoming a nature walk for those with that knowledge and interest, or a photo walk for those who enjoy photography. Or maybe, some of those who take part in the initial walks will realize they want to do more and will decide to go on a hike together or start running together, all based on their physical condition.
Dan’s idea for an outdoor recreation program is based in part on his experiences with the new Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Support Group that has formed at Waldo County General Hospital and meets the second Tuesday of each month.
Dan started running some 21 years ago. His current exercise schedule includes running several miles three days a week with his friend, training partner and physical therapist, Kerri Holt. Another day he runs with Kerri’s sister Kristin. Last year Kerri and Dan ran their first marathon together.
Three days a week Dan works out on the stationary bike at the YMCA and also does strength work there. Every day, he does yoga and the exercises he was given by a physical therapist.
Dan is convinced that his exercise regime is why he is doing so well physically but he is still affected by the disease.“Running is easier for me than tying my shoes. I have trouble with fine motor skills. And when I read a paragraph, when I’m finished, what I read is gone. I have difficulty with concentration and my attention span has been impacted.” Parkinson’s affects everyone differently, he says.
But no matter how an individual is affected, Dan says exercise helps and he hopes many of those who have disabilities and don’t get out will join him for a pleasant walk and an opportunity to be with others in similar situations.
Dan urges anyone who wants to participate to check with their doctor to make sure the walk is right for them and join him on Thursdays at the Boathouse.
(Note: For more information, call Dan at 338-5675.)
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