[00:00.00]From VOA Learning English, this is the Health and Lifestyle Report.
[00:05.71]More than six million people around the world suffer from Parkinson's disease.
[00:13.62]Parkinson's disease makes patients shake and their muscles difficult to move.
[00:21.38]The disease is incurable and only gets worse over time.
[00:26.73]Parkinson's usually affects older people.
[00:31.37]Current treatments for Parkinson's are medicine and surgery.
[00:37.03]But lately many doctors and patients have become interested in a treatment that is simple,
[00:44.60]does not cost much and seems to be very effective.
[00:49.04]That treatment is exercise.
[00:52.10]"Pick it back up. Put it down. Right leg. Straight arm. Way back. one ... two ... three ..."
[00:57.55]What you hear are 20 senior citizens exercising.
[01:03.04]They stretch their arms forward and then swing them far back.
[01:08.82]The instructor watching them closely is a 75-year-old man named Gary Sobel.
[01:17.16]"Here we go! Catch! Hurl!..."
[01:23.51]Mr. Sobel shows the class how to catch and throw -- or, as he says, hurl -- an imaginary ball.
[01:32.10]Everyone follows his instructions.
[01:35.26]But many of the students cannot stop their hands and feet from shaking. And some cannot straighten their bodies.
[01:45.04]Everyone in the class has Parkinson's disease -- everyone -- even the instructor.
[01:52.51]Parkinson's disease is an incurable brain, or neurologic, condition that can make walking and keeping your balance difficult.
[02:04.63]So, many patients avoid exercise.
[02:08.72]But these students exercise several times a week.
[02:13.56]They say the exercise helps the symptoms of Parkinson's.
[02:18.35]But they also come for another reason -- the friendship.
[02:23.28]The exercise classes have been important for the instructor, too.
[02:28.01]When he was younger, Mr. Sobel was an athlete.
[02:33.18]In his early 60s, he was still running in long races.
[02:38.00]But in 2008, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
[02:44.21]The condition became severe.
[02:46.58]He could not get out of bed without help.
[02:50.09]He could not walk easily.
[02:52.63]He could not drive a car.
[02:55.79]"Walking was a problem because I would trip and fall.
[02:59.72]Getting in and out of a car - I couldn't drive anymore because my reflexes were too slow.
[03:04.84]I didn't trust myself if I had to make a sudden stop, you're just too slow with your movements."
[03:10.81]Doctors told Mr. Sobel the best way to avoid accidents and injury was to avoid exercise.
[03:18.86]"In 2008 when you were diagnosed, you were told not to crack a sweat, take it easy. I'm serious."
[03:27.96]So Mr. Sobel stopped exercising.
[03:30.11]He also avoided medications because he was scared of the side effects, the bad things they might cause.
[03:38.97]Then one day, his hands were shaking so much, he could not sign his name to pay a bill.
[03:46.86]"I hit bottom that day, and I said, this is absolutely ridiculous, that I can't even write a check."
[03:52.71]After this happened Mr. Sobel started to take low doses of Parkinson's medicine to reduce the shaking.
[04:01.41]Once the shaking lessened he started squeezing water from wet towels to strengthen his hands.
[04:09.38]That simple exercise worked.
[04:11.94]"It took about six weeks and I could write a check better than I ever did."
[04:18.99]Mr. Sobel decided to build on his success.
[04:23.30]He moved on to exercises to strengthen his legs.
[04:27.62]Then he decided he wanted to help others. So, he trained to be an instructor.
[04:35.41]Mr. Sobel has been teaching exercise classes for three years.
[04:40.82]In that time, he has helped thousands of people with Parkinson's.
[04:46.37]In this class, he is teaching students how to walk fast, how to stop fast and even how to walk backwards.
[04:55.42]"..in the count of three. One, two, three ... Stop!"
[04:59.95]He says he pushes all his students to do more than they think they can.
[05:13.17]The medical community noticed the success stories of Mr. Sobel and other Parkinson's patients who exercised.
[05:21.78]Doctor Heather Ene is a doctor at the University of Colorado.
[05:27.02]She specializes in movement disorders.
[05:31.42]She explains that many people have made a philosophical shift,or a change of thinking, about exercise and Parkinson's disease.
[05:42.85]"There's been a complete shift towards exercise as a mainstay in Parkinson's disease."
[05:48.48]Ms. Ene says new research about Parkinson's is making doctors change their advice to patients.
[05:56.52]Now, doctors are telling people with Parkinson's to exercise longer, more often and at higher intensity.
[06:05.90]She says exercise may help people remain more active for longer.
[06:12.63]"It's not necessarily going to slow the disease progression such that people don't need medications.
[06:20.29]In fact, it's very unlikely that it's going to create that much difference.
[06:25.79]But it can be very helpful in slowing the transition to disability.
[06:29.68]That's part of what we're trying to do."
[06:32.23]And, Dr. Ene says Mr. Sobel's exercise classes help the students with more than their physical health.
[06:40.61]She says the classes help students emotionally.
[06:44.96]They give the people a community.
[06:48.36]Students exercise among others with Parkinson's and learn from a man with Parkinson's.
[06:58.78]Back in the class, Mr. Sobel says the classes have also helped him fight this degenerative disease, a disease that gets worse over time.
[07:10.41]"This is a degenerative disease that can get nasty.
[07:15.39]But I'm winning the battle right now, and I don't know how long I can continue to win the battle, but I'll do what I can."
[07:22.48]As part of doing what he can, Mr. Sobel has trained over 100 instructors throughout the United States.
[07:30.05]These instructors use his methods of leading Parkinson's exercise classes.
[07:36.82]He has also helped start other classes for people with Parkinson's.
[07:42.32]These classes include yoga, Tai Chi and dancing.
[07:47.45]For the Health and Lifestyle Report, I'm Anna Matteo.
[07:52.88]Words in This Story
[07:57.69]patients - n. people who receive medical care or treatment
[08:03.53]stretch - v. to move your muscles in a way that makes them long and tight
[08:10.30]swing - v. to move with a smooth, curving motion
[08:15.73]reflexes - n. actions or movements of the body that happen automatically as a reaction to something
[08:24.63]hit bottom- v. expression reach the lowest possible level or point
[08:31.30]degenerative - adj. medical causing the body or part of the body to become weaker or less able to function as time passes