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Creighton students teach people with Parkinson's tai chi

Posted at 5:46 PM, Feb 28, 2019

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — We all know exercise is an important part of living a healthy life. For people with Parkinson’s disease, exercise can improve symptoms.

Creighton physical therapy students just learned some new tai chi techniques and they are teaching the moves to people with Parkinson’s.

“That’s when I first noticed it,” Carolyn Nickel said. “I was riding the bicycle and I kept falling off of it. And I go, this is not me.”

Nickel has been teaching for 38-years and living for Parkinson’s for six.

“I was just thinking about that today,” Nickel said. “Many things are rewarding in life. Students I still get to see, and student I still get together with. I felt like I've left a footprint.”

The Parkinson’s Outcomes Project shows people who start exercising earlier, and for a minimum of 2.5 hours per week, experienced a slower decline in quality of life.

“Exercise in general is just really great for not only their cardio-respiratory system, deep breathing,” Tara Trcka, Physical Therapy Student said. “But just reinforcing those large movements and getting their blood pumping and muscles working.”

Nickel said it works.

“I broke my wrist so I was out of the water for two weeks,” Nickel said. “I knew I was out of the water for two weeks. Being still, not sure of yourself, and your balance goes away.”

For the past three years, she volunteers to drive here from Lincoln for the students.

“I feel they help me and I help them,” Nickel said. “I feel it’s very important they understand a person who has Parkinson’s. They need to know that we are all different so any way that I can help out.”

“I think working with patients is honestly where you learn the best,” Trcka said. “When you're applying what you know or what you've learned.”

Parkinson’s Foundation said there is no right exercise for everyone. See their recommendations on tai chi and yoga here.