Regular exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle for everyone. For those with Parkinson’s disease, exercise is especially vital in helping to maintain balance, flexibility, mobility and cognitive abilities. The BC Brain Wellness Program (BCBWP), spearheaded by Dr. Silke Appel-Cresswell, combines clinical care, lifestyle programs, education and research in a comprehensive and integrated approach to brain wellness for people with chronic brain conditions and healthy agers.

Sally Stelling plays a key role in the BCBWP as the program’s exercise lead and instructor of the Intensity Interval Training classes. Working alongside students in the UBC Physical Therapy and Research Clinic, she provides participants with safe and effective exercise programs and instruction.

Deborah Scott-Douglas and Margaret Miller, who are regular attendees of Sally’s classes, had nothing but positive things to say when asked about their experience.

“Sally is a force of positivity and she really sets the atmosphere and tone,” Deborah says. “Her positive energy permeates into the students and class.”

Other than the benefits of the exercises themselves, both Deborah and Margaret enjoy the camaraderie and interaction with the students and other participants.

“I love working with the students,” says Margaret. “They are so positive, enthusiastic and kind. I think that we have learned a lot from each other, and they may have even learned something about 60s and 70s music from us!”

“I love their youthful energy,” Deborah adds. “They have an impressive amount of expertise. The students come from diverse backgrounds, ranging from dancers to physical trainers, which makes it fun to work with them.”

One of the unique aspects of the class is the opportunity to work one-on-one with the students so that exercises can be catered to individual fitness levels and needs, and each person gets help with doing the right exercises at the right intensity.

“They’re wonderful coaches, always so positive and welcoming, like a mini cheering squad,” says Deborah. “They really reinforce all of the benefits of the program.”

Both Deborah and Margaret have found that the exercise classes have helped manage their Parkinson’s symptoms, and the progression of the disease, in a positive and enjoyable way.

“I find the class to be extraordinarily valuable and never miss it!” Deborah says. “I wish everyone with Parkinson’s had the opportunity to participate in such customized, fun and supportive sessions on a regular basis because they would truly feel the benefit, both mentally and physically.”

They also appreciate the creativity involved in putting the classes together. While every class is different, each one has an element focusing on key areas such as agility, strength, cardio and balance. These types of exercises are not only important for those with Parkinson’s but also benefit those with other neurological disorders.

“I really appreciate the sense of community that develops over the weeks,” says Margaret, who has been participating in the classes since the start of the BCBWP in 2019. “The exercises give me a sense of physical and emotional wellbeing that may not be there when the class begins. I would definitely recommend the Brain Wellness Program to others, for its friendly and fun environment and the positive results.”