For the media

Using energy and rhythm to ease symptoms of Parkinson’s

By The Health News Team | April 11, 2024
SGH Parkinsons Exercise Class Group Shot
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(L-R) Greg (patient), Pamela Singh (physical therapist), Mike (patient), Simary Rosario (physical therapist) and Marilyn (patient) celebrate another successful class.

SGH Parkinsons Exercise Class Treadmill Card Game
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Pamela Singh works with Marilyn, her patient, as she dual-tasks a treadmill exercise while playing a concentration-based card game.

SGH Parkinsons Exercise Class Squats
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Physical therapists Pamela and Simary work with patients on an exercise drill that includes squats.

SGH Parkinsons Exercise Class Pole Exercise
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Physical therapist Pamela Singh assists Mike, her patient, in an exercise utilizing poles.

SGH Parkinsons Exercise Class Stair Climber
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Physical therapist Simary Rosario guides Greg, her patient, through a stair-climbing exercise.

If you believe an exercise class for patients with Parkinson’s disease should be a slow, quiet affair, think again. At Sharp Grossmont Hospital, the rehabilitation team’s approach to helping patients improve their movement and cognitive functions as they navigate Parkinson’s is fun, educational and oh so lively.

At a Wednesday afternoon class, Taylor Swift tunes fill the air, infusing the room with energy and rhythm. On this day, three people diagnosed with the movement disorder — all former patients of the physical therapists (PTs) who teach the class — spend the hour doing group drills to the music and skills-based exercises with the therapists' supervision.

Physical therapists Pamela Singh and Simary Rosario developed the twice-a-week, monthlong class as a way for their patients to continue working on the concepts that are necessary to manage their Parkinson’s disease. The group format provides the camaraderie that helps people know they are not alone. Before the class was launched, there wasn’t a resource such as this for East County patients.

“The research shows that exercise and physical therapy can slow down progression of Parkinson’s,” says Pamela. “This can help change the trajectory of the disease and hopefully help them maintain their independence and the ability to do the things they want to do.” Exercise is also a key way to keep patients with Parkinson’s strong and at less risk of falling.

Tailored to Parkinson’s patients
As physical therapists who specialize in patients with movement disorders, Pamela and Simary carefully designed the class with them in mind. They’ve incorporated exercises and tasks tailored to patients with Parkinson’s to keep their bodies and minds as sharp as possible and to educate them on how to manage their symptoms. Drills in the class include:

  • Rocking back and forth on their heels and toes to work on balance.

  • Making large-amplitude, exaggerated movements that help regulate the size of movements often minimized in people with Parkinson’s.

  • Vigorous exercise sequences to get patients’ heart rates up. Research shows that high-intensity exercise has a positive impact on the health and development of neurons in the brain, and helps release the dopamine lacking in people with Parkinson’s.

  • Using their voices loudly while exercising to help with the speech and voice problems that are common with the disease.

  • Dual-task training activities that involve doing two different tasks at the same time, to improve patients’ physical and cognitive well-being. For example, side stepping on a moving treadmill while playing the card game Concentration at the same time.

What the classmates say
In a recent class, patients Mike Disney, Greg Clark and Marilyn LeResche, who all knew Pamela and Simary through their previous rehabilitation stints, showed up ready to move.

“It helps immensely with my state of mind,” says Greg. “Knowing there’s something you can do about Parkinson’s to hold it at bay and minimize the effects is very important to me.”

Marilyn says the group setting and the people she’s with motivate her. “The people you’re working with are so important, and these therapists are so positive and so encouraging,” she says. “It’s really cathartic for me to be with other patients too, because we’re encouraged by each other’s attitudes.”

Mike was diagnosed nine years ago. After treatment and continuous rehabilitation, he says his days are usually better. Keeping himself moving is a big reason for that.

“I find the balance between medication and exercise is what we’re all looking for,” says Mike. “If it wasn’t for doing the rehab and continuing to exercise, I don’t know if I’d still be around.”

For more information about class offerings, call 619-740-4100. To learn more about treatments available for Parkinson’s disease, including deep brain stimulation and focused ultrasound (both available at Sharp Grossmont Hospital), call our Movement Disorders Information Line at 619-740-3085.

Pamela Singh

Pamela Singh


Pamela Singh is a physical therapist at Sharp Grossmont Hospital.

Simary Rosario

Simary Rosario


Simary Rosario is a physical therapist at Sharp Grossmont Hospital.

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