Parkinson’s disease patients find benefits in martial arts exercise |

Published: Sunday, August 22, 2010 at 4:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, August 22, 2010 at 2:20 a.m.

Many people have seen martial arts performed in movies and on television, most likely as a means of defense against opposing forces in battle scenes. However, in Winter Haven, a form of martial arts – tai chi – is being used as a means of defense against an internal opponent – Parkinson’s disease.

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Parkinsons patients Bob Harmon, left, and Laura Williams perform Tai Chi with instructor Michael Carey and assistant Kate Gilbert at the Main Street Dojo’s, Inc. on Central Avenue in Winter Haven. Tuesday, August 17, 2010.
George Aycrigg / News Chief

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Bob Harmon, left, follows the precise movements of instructor Michael Carey during Tai Chi. Tuesday, August 17, 2010.
George Aycrigg / News Chief

Funded as part of a grant by the University of South Florida neurology department, Dr. Michael Carey has been offering free tai chi classes in Lakeland to Parkinson’s disease patients for two years. This summer, he started offering the classes in Winter Haven.

Parkinson’s disease patient Laura Williams began taking the classes in Lakeland and switched to the Winter Haven classes when they became available.

“I knew what tai chi was, but I didn’t know how it could help people with Parkinson’s disease,” said Williams of her decision to start the class two years ago. “I heard about the class through my doctor, and I decided to go. It has helped so much with my balance, because my balance wasn’t that good because of Parkinson’s. The class has been good for that.”

Williams said that because of tai chi’s slow, deliberate movements, the exercise is one she can practice at home to supplement the once-a-week class.

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