Beelitzer Musikgymnastik - music guided home programme for people with parkinson's

In the gym at the neurologic special hospital for movement disorders and parkinsonism in Beelitz-Heilstätten / Germany 12 patients sit in a circle. Suddenly a command is heard "Stretch arms - and bend, and stretch and bend!" Slowly everybody starts moving with the arms in big protruding movements behind the bag and in front again. A cheerful trendy music is playing along. The movements melt in with the music, almost like in ballet. Then the tempo becomes faster, the music gets more rhythmically and louder. All participants moving much faster now. Everybody is working very hard. Then another command says "and shake out". A rhythmically floating music is accompanying the loosening of the arm muscles.

In the treatment of parkinson's from the beginning activating therapies play a vital role for the preservation of the physical fitness. Many therapeutic activities can be effectively mastered individually. The patients go bicycling, swimming, running, do nordic walking or visit a dancing class. In general it's very important to get as much movement as possible. This can reduce the symptoms and can slow down the whole disease progression.

In the parkinson special hospital in Germany a new home programme has been developed. In cooperation of physio and music therapists a unique movement training with functional training music came into being: the Beelitzer Musikgymnastik. What's innovative about this programme is a very special music. This was created by a german firm that has specialised in the production of functional training music. Melody, rhythm, harmony - everything was designed in a way that the movement can be heard exactly.

The idea comes from neurologic music therapy. A standardized scientific treatment approach from USA. Music therapist Stefan Mainka explains: "we used the principle of patterned sensory enhancement. This music guides and stimulates the patients at the same time. It is setting the best tempo while the force is precisely marked by the melody." 

For some time it is known that music can be very important for people with parkinson's. Just listening to loud and rhythmical music leads to measurable improvements of mobility. When listening to music dopamine is released in the brain. Motoric functions are improving - just though listening! Many parkinson patients know this from their own experience. Sometimes a quick song is playing in the radio and all of a sudden one is moving with dancing steps through the kitchen, even though the feet have felt like being stuck on the floor just the minute before.

These effects are used for therapeutic applications such as dance therapy or music guided gait training. In 2014 a clinical study from the Max Planck Institut for Cognitive Brain Sciences Leipzig demonstrated that gait training with music helps parkinson patients to walk faster and improve stride length (see at news).The Beelitzer Musikgymnastik can be carried out independently at home in a sitting position. All what is needed is a cd player. The exercises are created in a way, that all important muscles groups are adressed - the feet, the legs, the trunk, the arms. "Many patients find those exercises really hard. But when the music is playing, often it goes much easier and can be even fun" says the physio therapist Annette Sprock.

To be able to practice at home, there is an illustrated brochure, that explains all exercises. In that way people with parkinson's can remain active and mobile at home. The music conveys a long forgotten feeling: movement with pleasure. 

reported on
30th 2014

CD and brochure (German) available at