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Exercise for Optimizing Chronic Neurological Conditions

By James Lyon, student physical therapist

Are you or a loved one suffering from a neurological condition that affects energy levels, strength, balance, or functioning throughout the day, such as Parkinson’s Disease or Multiple Sclerosis? A physical therapist is trained to assess strength and limitations, as well as to tailor routines and activities to assist in returning you to the activities you love doing.

While exercise is beneficial for anyone and everyone, regular participation in physical activity is especially important for people living with neurological conditions. For conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease that impact cognitive function, regular physical activity has been proven to slow cognitive decline. With conditions that affect balance such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and stroke, exercise can help to improve stability to reduce the risk of falls. For any conditions that impact muscle strength, physical activity assists in slowing, and even reversing muscular atrophy. Regular cardiovascular exercise can improve endurance and activity tolerance to reverse the effects of neurological conditions that impact energy levels. Physical activity is also widely known to improve emotional state, as mood is often affected by these conditions, as well.

Chicago and its suburbs offer many community-based resources in variety of styles to keep those with a chronic neurological condition moving.  After consulting with a physical therapist to determine the right plan for you, identify what type of exercise activity you want to try first!

Chicago – Downtown

CrossTown Fitness – 1031 W. Madison (also available in Roscoe Village and Lakeview)
Personal training classes offering adaptive sessions for people living with diagnoses such as Parkinson’s, SCI, stroke, and multiple sclerosis

Hubbard Street Dance – 1147 Jackson
The oldest Parkinson’s dance program in the midwest, which helps to slow disease progression through dance techniques.

Movement Revolution – 227 E. Ontario (+ suburban locations)
Group classes built to empower and inspire participants to challenge themselves and defy stereotypes associated with neurological conditions.

  • Rock Steady Boxing: For Parkinson’s and Parkinsonian conditions
  • Vim and Vigor: Modified spin cycle class for patients with, Parkinson’s, SCI, stroke, MS, fall risk, and other neurological conditions
  • Neuro Fight Club: Strength and conditioning boxing, for same populations as vim & vigor
  • Spin for Parkinson’s (also welcomes stroke, SCI, MS, fall risk, Alzheimers, and elderly)

Northwestern Memorial Hospital – 251 E. Huron Street
Exercise classes and support groups for people living with Parkinson’s disease

Shirley Ryan Ability Lab – 541 N. Fairbanks
Offering adaptive sports and fitness programs to suit people with physical/neurological disabilities.

  • Sport Programs:
    Archery, Boccia, Cycling/racing, Golf, Rock Climbing, Sailing
  • Fitness Programs:
    Treadmill Training, Boxing, Zumba, Flex-Ability, MaZi Cardio, Nordic Walk, Seated Bootcamp, Seated Yoga, Water Aerobics, Tai Chi
  • Parkinson’s-specific Classes: Amplitude-Based Training, Integrated Exercises for Parkinson’s, PWR! Circuit

Chicago – South

Roots of Integrity Holistic Fitness and Wellness – 1006 S. Michigan Ave
Gentle Pilates with an emphasis for neurological conditions, designed to improve posture, balance, and strength.

South Side YMCA of Metro Chicago – 6330 S. Stony Island
Offers water aerobics classes geared for individuals with multiple sclerosis and other conditions which may limit mobility.

Chicago – Northwest

JCC Chicago – 3303 W. Touhy Avenue
This program was founded with the Northwestern University Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center to improve the lives of people with Parkinson’s through exercise, support, education, and medical collaboration.


Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital – Barrington
Advocate offers a variety of exercise classes welcome to all people, as well a specialized aquatics class for people with multiple sclerosis.

Chicago Dance Therapy – Northfield
Offering dance classes targeted to people with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s as a method of alternative psychotherapy.

Dance For Parkinson’s Disease – Various Locations
Specialized dance classes of various styles designed to address symptom-specific aspects of Parkinson’s such as balance, cognition, motor skill, depression, and physical confidence.

  • Downer’s Grove, Good Samaritan Hospital
  • Lake Forest, Northwestern Hospital
  • Glenview, Belmont Village Senior Living
  • Urbana-Champaign, Kranner Center for the Performing Arts

Glenview Park District – Glenview
Exercise classes suited for Parkinson’s patients that incorporates cardio, balance training, and PWR (Parkinson’s Wellness Recovery).

Lieberman Center for Health and Rehabilitation – Skokie
Offering specialized exercises programs for Parkinson’s patients to decrease symptoms of the disease, increase strength, and improve energy levels and daily function.

  • Parkinson’s on the Move
  • Seated Dance and Movement
  • Seated Tai Chi

NeuroBalance Center – Barrington
Individual and group fitness classes designed for people with neurological and autoimmune conditions that affect mobility, balance, strength, gait, coordination, and speech.

  • FitMS: Seated class incorporating Tai Chi, Yoga, Pilates, and Balance Ball exercises for people with multiple sclerosis and other similar movement disorders
  • FitPD: Hour long class for patients with Parkinson’s and other movement disorders

Northwestern Medicine, Lake Forest Health and Fitness Center – Lake Forest
Lake Forest branch of the Northwestern hospital system that offers low- to moderate-intensity exercises classes for people with Parkinson’s and fibromyalgia.

  • Dance for Parkinson’s
  • Functional Fitness
  • Pedal for Parkinson’s
  • Pilates for Parkinson’s
  • Rock Steady Boxing
  • Strength and Balance
  • TRX for Parkinson’s
  • Yoga for Parkinson’s
  • Fibromyalgia: Warm water therapy pool class specifically designed for people with fibromyalgia

The Wellness Pros – Various Locations
The Wellness Pros mission is to provide quality fitness services for people with disabilities including, but not limited to, Alzheimer’s, adult CP, and wheelchair bound citizens. They are a not-for-profit company that serves Chicago and the surrounding suburbs.

  • Strength training and general conditioning
  • Yoga
  • Drums
  • Therapeutic dance and creative movements
  • Senior fitness

Yoga Heals Us – Various Locations
Private and group yoga classes of various styles, with certified instructors in TAYMS: Therapeutic Adaptive Yoga for Multiple Sclerosis. Classes are offered all around the Chicago area and suburbs.

Contact PhysioPartners to schedule an appointment and determine the right program for you!