(Above) Led by George Brown

Exercise program helping former Creston resident with Parkinson’s disease

Former Crestonite George Brown, who now lives in Sidney, B.C., credits health resurgence to exercise program...

Five years ago, shortly before he moved to Sidney, B.C., George Brown slowly passed by the Advance office on Canyon Street, each step a struggle and his balance aided by two canes.

Last week, he arrived at the Advance without the aid of canes. As he came through the door he stretched his arms above his head and lifted one leg to nearly waist height.

“I can do this for 10 minutes or more,” he said, a smile widening across his face.

Brown has Parkinson’s disease, and has had it for nearly 20 years. Now, at 72, he credits his health resurgence to an exercise program he has been participating in for two years.

“I was out riding my trike and I got talking to a man who turned out to also have Parkinson’s,” Brown said after taking a seat. “He told me about a film that was being shown about Parkinson’s and suggested I come along.”

The film turned out to be the first dramatic step in improving his quality of life. What he learned was that a routine had been developed by a physiotherapist who started doing research after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The result was a program that has four pillars: focus, physical, cognition and emotional. What started as a fitness program with two participants in 2013 has grown to include more than 100 members in Sidney. One aspect of the program is the facilitator asking questions while the participants are exercising. The intent is to force the brain to think about other things while maintaining its control of physical movements.

“I pay $50 dollars a month instead of a drop-in fee,” Brown said. “We meet three times a week for an hour and I look forward to every session.”

In Creston, Brown was a physical activity enthusiast and could often be seen out riding his bicycle. But he crashed his bike and broke his neck in three places 20 years ago, and soon after began showing symptoms of Parkinson’s. But even his wife, Afa, a family physician, thought the symptoms were results of nerve damage from the accident. As his condition grew worse, Afa died after a long battle with cancer, and George relocated to Sidney to be nearer to family and medical services.

“My daughter, now a physician, told me, ‘Papa, keep moving or you’ll be in a wheelchair in three to five years,” he recalled.

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that primarily affects the motor system. Shaking, rigidity, slowness of movement and difficulty with walking are the common early symptoms. Thinking and behavioural problems can arise and dementia is a common occurrence as the disease progresses.

When Brown entered the exercise program, he was taking nine prescription medications, including sleeping pills and antidepressants, to combat his symptoms.

“Now I’m on three medications and I’m due for a review that should reduce that number to two,” he said.

Today, he averages two to four kilometres a day walking and he often reaches his goal of 10,000 steps.

“This week I got on a bike to adjust the gears for a young fellow,” he smiled. “I hadn’t been on a bicycle for nine years! And I am back playing my Autoharp, too!”

Brown was in Creston at the invitation of his friends, Marilin and Dr. Randy Grahn, who are hoping his story can inspire the formation of a Creston exercise group. On his visit, Brown spoke to a group of 27 medical professionals, did a presentation to the Creston Rotary Club and led an exercise class at the Therapeutic Activation Program for Seniors.

“I think there is genuine excitement among the professionals George has spoken to, especially those who knew him before and can see the change in him,” Marilin said. “I hope there will be a program like the one George participates in up and running by the fall — and it would benefit many more people than those who have Parkinson’s. The program is simple and safe, and doesn’t cost much at all.”

“My dad used to say, ‘Keep moving and the undertaker won’t catch you,’ and, ‘Every day you wake up and don’t see dandelion roots is a good day’,” Brown laughed. “After 10 years on sleeping pills and nearly 20 on antidepressants I don’t need them any more. And it might take me a few hours to get up and mobile in the morning, but I look forward to every day!”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A sentencing hearing began for Joel Conway who was convicted of break and enter and sexual assault last year. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
Saanich man sentenced to three years in prison for breaking into woman’s home and sexually assaulting her

Crown is asking Joel Conway be sentenced to four years for both charges, to be served concurrent

Victoria fire crews quickly extinguished a multi-unit apartment building fire near Beacon Hill Park on Oct. 30. (Courtesy of Chief Paul Bruce)
Victoria fire crews extinguish multi-unit fire near Beacon Hill Park

Two people have suffered non-life-threatening injuries

Blanshard Street, between Burdett Avenue and Douglas Street, will be closed to traffic Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 while crews repave the road. (City of Victoria)
TRAFFIC ALERT: Section of Blanshard Street will be closed this weekend

Crews will be repaving Blanshard Street between Burdett Avenue and Douglas Street

Victoria police are asking for help locating 14-year-old, high-risk missing youth, Anabella Lilly. (Victoria Police Department)
Victoria police seek help locating high-risk missing youth

Police say the circumstances under which 14-year-old Anabella Lilly went missing are ‘high-risk’

Physical distancing signs are a common sight in B.C. stores and businesses. THE CANADIAN PRESS
272 more COVID-19 cases for B.C., outbreak at oil sands project

Three new health care outbreaks, three declared over

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Allentown, Pa. on Oct. 26. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
POLL: How closely are you following the U.S. presidential election?

It may feel like it’s been going on forever but the U.S.… Continue reading

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Police service dog Herc helped RCMP locate and arrest suspects in the Ladysmith area on Oct. 23, 2020, related to a stolen vehicle. (Submitted)
RCMP nab prolific property offender in Ladysmith with assist from police dog Herc

Police attempted to stop the vehicle but it fled from the area towards Chemainus.

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

Most Read