On the Move! Students and Community Work Together to Enhance Quality of Life for Parkinson’s Patients
Unique Trent-community collaboration offers undergraduate students opportunity gain hands-on work and research experience
For former service sector CEO, president, and CAO, Joe W van Koeverden, a unique exercise program at the Trent Athletics Centre has played a special role in his journey with Parkinson’s.
In 2021, Joe, the president of the Peterborough Parkinson’s Canada Chapter at that time, worked together with Dr. Liana Brown, an associate professor of Psychology, to develop the On the Move! program. This program is specifically designed for People with Parkinson's Disease (PwPD) and is structured and supervised by undergraduate researchers to encourage physical and social activity through weekly in-person sessions at the Centre.
As Joe explains, the initiative was born out of a direct need and a timely opportunity, when the Peterborough group lost their chapter status.
“We approached Trent University because Liana had just started the fourth-year kinesiology program and she thought that together, we could do an integrated job of offering us fitness.”
Participants in the program can choose from three formats that rotate weekly: dance aerobics, cycling spin classes, and boxing bootcamp classes. The program is designed based on five evidence-based principles, including bringing participants safely to a relatively high intensity of exertion and incorporating big movements that challenge PwPD to expand their current range of motion and test the limits of their base of support for balance.
Joe shares that the partnership between the Psychology program at Trent and the Parkinson’s Peterborough Support Group has been a win-win for both groups. While the program offers an exercise opportunity for PwPD, it also creates opportunities for undergraduate students to gain invaluable hands-on research and work experience with clients.
“On The Move! is special because it invites students from any program to have an opportunity to interact with a very friendly population of people who can really benefit from exercise prescription,” says Professor Brown. “Being able to offer a program to our local Parkinson's community is really wonderful. Another reason to get together with each other, they get to exercise and benefit from the exercise. And then from the student's perspective, bringing together a group of students and seeing them work with one another; I enjoy every minute.”
A unique hands-on learning opportunity
Through the On The Move! practicum, selected students are trained to offer evidence-based exercise programming to meet the needs of PwPD participants as a group and to safely offer exercise options to meet individuals' needs. A truly interdisciplinary environment, each student learns how to measure the program's effectiveness by completing an appropriate project focused on program evaluation.
“This class gave me the opportunity to really learn about Parkinson's disease and I'm actually pursuing doing my thesis researching Parkinson's and the effect of exercise on symptoms,” said Chloé Cayen, a fourth-year Otonabee College student studying Kinesiology. “I feel like without this program I wouldn't have realized that I have a passion for research, and it helped me get this hands on experience that I don't think I could have gotten anywhere else.”
A testament to the advantage gained in working with the program, all graduating students who participated in the program in 2021/22 were accepted to prestigious graduate programs in psychology, physical therapy, and counselling.
Learn more about the On The Move! program through Dr. Brown’s Action & Cognition at Trent website.