Proactive for Parkinson’s

by | Jan 2019

Minnetonka trainer parkinsons Heidi Wenberg fitness health

Photo: Emily J. Davis

Minnetonka trainer is the only Delay the Disease–certified instructor in the state.

The sweet spot for any business is the ability to fulfill a community need. And if that business helps people? Even better.

Minnetonka’s Heidi Weinberg finds herself in a sweet spot with her business Live2Thrive, which provides physical therapy and exercise treatments for elderly patients with neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

Parkinson’s disease signifies the loss of dopamine in the brain, which creates stiffness in the body. “Most people’s [problem areas] include smaller movements like smaller handwriting, steps, arm movements and voice,” says Weinberg. Minnesota has the third highest incidence of Parkinson’s in the country, so Weinberg has found herself in a community looking for solutions and treatment.

Weinberg is a certified personal trainer, health coach and functional aging specialist. But her foray into elderly treatment came from a switch in careers, which led her to a job coordinating services for the elderly. This role inspired her to get her personal training certification and a job at the YMCA, where she worked with older adults.

“I was brand new and had never met anyone with Parkinson’s,” she says. “But I had a man with Parkinson’s who signed up to work with me three times a week. I started to do some research online and learned what I could, and a few months into training noticed his symptoms had turned around.”

Inspired by the results, Weinberg signed up for Delay the Disease certification, an evidence-based exercise program in YMCAs around the country for people with Parkinson’s. Three years after her certification, Weinberg is the only Delay the Disease instructor in Minnesota, teaching classes in St. Louis Park and Eden Prairie.

Now, after founding Live2Thrive, Weinberg is one of six Parkinson’s disease experts recognized by the Parkinson’s Foundation of Minnesota. This recognition allows Weinberg to connect some of her clients to grant money to pay for their sessions. In addition to one-on-one client sessions, Weinberg offers group classes at the Fitspace studio in St. Louis Park and offers a free one-hour consultation with anyone to review symptoms and issues.

“Parkinson’s manifests differently in every person—that’s the hard part,” she says.

Weinberg’s sessions generally include a warm-up, cardio and core work. “The warm-up is critical because Parkinson’s usually causes your movements to get smaller, so we work on range of movement and taking really big steps.”

The cardio focus helps get the heart rate up to increase dopamine levels in the brain and neural pathways. “Getting the heart rate up will prime your brain to learn new things, so once we’ve warmed up, I pick one area for clients to work on, like balance, rotation, posture or big steps,” says Weinberg.

Finally, working on core strength is important for anyone as they age. “We train your core to be stiff and stable so any outside forces pushing on your body won’t knock you over,” says Weinberg.

Weinberg’s work is fueled by a passion for caring for the elderly population. “I’m concerned about this population in general, and particularly in Minnesota,” she says. “We don’t have many processes in place to deal with the influx of older adults, which will be exploding in the next 10 to 20 years.”

Her desire to create something for individuals suffering from Parkinson’s disease and other neurological issues has also informed her vocation: to create a new paradigm for people to be proactive and take back control as they age.

“A lot of life is outside our control, so I want to help people be strong and resilient,” she says. “Working out will help you recover better and fare better overall. That’s why I created this, to help people remember: Don’t let life happen to you; take control.”


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