A NORTHWICH Paralympian has helped launch a pioneering project aimed at helping those with Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s Disease.

Academics, charities and specialised community groups have teamed up to create a programme in west Cheshire which aims to improve the lives of those living with neurological disorders.

Matt Dimbylow from Sandiway, who competed for Team GB in football at the 2008 and 2012 Paralympic Games, was diagnosed with a form of Parkinson’s Disease aged 36 after suffering a ‘whiplash’ style head injury in a semi-professional football game.

He told the audience at the official launch in Ellesmere Port that the medication he was prescribed to help his degenerative disease led to side effects such as mood swings. He then discovered how regular exercise brought about dramatic improvements.

“I last took my meds two years ago but I have a much better life balance and I put that down to exercise. Some mornings I can’t move and I’m rigid, that’s the Parkinson’s. My speech goes and my face drops but if I fight through it then exercise is beneficial.”

The project is the result of a successful bid to Sport England who will be funding it over a three year period.

Brio Leisure will host it with the Chester-based Neuro Therapy Centre, Sheffield Hallam University, the MS Society, Parkinson’s UK and the Walton Centre in Liverpool.

The research aims to demonstrate how exercise and physical activity helps people with a neurological condition cope with their symptoms.

Brio Leisure managing director Elly McFahn, said: “When we started to work with the Neuro Therapy Centre one of things we discovered was that many people with neurological conditions are worried that leisure centre staff don’t have the skills or experience to understand their symptoms, or the benefits of exercise for people with a disability, and so do not participate. We want to change that. 

“There are qualifications for our health improvement lifestyle officers to help them work with specific conditions but there is nothing that covers neurological conditions. With support from the MS Society, Parkinson’s UK, the Neuro Therapy Centre and training providers The Wright Foundation, we will create a specialised professional qualification for leisure industry staff to enable them to offer the right support to this group of people.”

Brio has also recruited a member of staff who will specialise in developing partnership relations and seek out more opportunities across Brio’s different leisure sites.

Physiotherapist Kathy Porter who was diagnosed with MS 16 years ago, said: “Exercise promotes wellbeing and the benefits are clear for everyone but for those with neurological conditions exercise also helps maintain independence. I have a particular problem with my legs so the exercises I do help maintain my muscle activity and my balance, preventing falls, injuries and potentially costly NHS treatments."

Brio has launched the project with a weekly, seated exercise class in Northwich for those with MS, Parkinson’s and similar conditions.

They will also be looking to create similar classes at other Brio centres and additional exercise classes tailored for those with neurological conditions at easy-to-reach locations.