Dan Aaron Stay Fit Program Receives Grant from Parkinson Council

By Caitlin Burns | January 6, 2017

For the sixth year in a row, the Physical Therapy department’s Dan Aaron Stay Fit Program has received a grant from the Parkinson Council. The $20,000 grant, titled “The Stay Fit Program,” will help support exercise programs for community members with Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson Disease, as well as a caregiver support group.

This program provides the opportunity for physical therapy students and faculty members to apply principles taught in the classroom to a real world experience while providing benefit to the participants. Because of the support from the Parkinson Council, the participants are able to undergo an intensive exercise program in an environment that that provides safety as they address deficits that limit their mobility and quality of life.

“The money all goes to support operational costs,” said Dr. Janet Readinger, assistant professor of Physical Therapy and associate director of Clinical Education at Arcadia. “There’s a huge need for programs like this, which helps patients with these two degenerative diseases keep, and sometimes improve, their mobility.”

In a report of a portion of participants over the past 18 months, the Dan Aaron Stay Fit Program participants have seen tremendous improvement in endurance and mobility exercises, either maintaining or improving in activities such as gait speed, sit-to-stand movements, and balance. In all activities, over 80 percent of participants maintained or improved in these activities, with over 90 percent maintaining mobility in the sit-to-stand movements.

“It has helped me keep my strength up and keep my independence,” said one patient from the report. Others noted that they also had cardiovascular improvements.

There are currently 40 participants in the class, with a waiting list of approximately 60 community members. Dr. Readinger hopes that in the coming years the program will be able to expand, but they are currently restricted by space.

Since 2011, the Dan Aaron Stay Fit Program has received support from the Parkinson Council. Participants in the program exercise in a group under the direction of physical therapy students, directly supervised by two physical therapists with experience in the treatment of individuals with neurologic disease. The program was founded by Gerri Aaron ’14H and her family in 2004 through the Dan Aaron Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, which is part of the Parkinson Council in Philadelphia.