During a Firefighter conference in Edmonton, Danielle Peers and Dr. Janice Richman-Eisenstat happened to be presenting on the same day. Both of their presentations touched on the need to support meaningful opportunities for recreation and physical activity for people living with neuromuscular conditions. This chance encounter was the beginning of a wonderful partnership.
Danielle and Janice decided to join forces, along with Dr. Hernish Acharya and Dr. Kelvin Jones, to start a pilot project, Moving to Breathe, Breathing to Move. They received funding for this pilot project through the Muscular Dystrophy Canada Seed Grants.
There are many barriers that restrict individuals living with neuromuscular disorders to participate in physical activity including inaccessible infrastructure, financial barriers, and lack of programming available for Canadians with a wide range of abilities.
“Our goal was to create a program that would welcome individuals with a wide range of neuromuscular conditions, at a wide range of stages which removes barriers they’ve previously encountered. We hope this pilot project will support our community to come and move together in ways that are more meaningful, safe, and beneficial,” says Danielle Peers.
“After my own health complications ended my Paralympic career, I spent years looking for physical activities that would be more suitable to my energy output, but would still give me the personal and social fulfillment that sports did”, says Danielle. “That is when I accidentally stumbled on integrated dance”.
“Through our research we have found that singing and dancing have similar health benefits to other physical activities, with extra quality of life benefits tied to self-expression, creativity, cultural engagement, and listening to music,” continues Danielle.
Danielle and the research team have now completed two of the three months of their pilot choir and dance program in Edmonton. Participants and researchers have learned a lot over the last two months about what makes the most fulfilling, safe, beneficial, and meaningful dance and singing classes.
“We have been playing with choreographed dance elements like space and time, and have been working through singing techniques like how to use less breath by using more vibration of vocal cords,” explains Danielle.
Researchers are learning a lot by having participants wear a vest called a Hexoskin during the program. The Hexoskin measures how the individual is breathing both from the belly and from the chest. They are working to see if tracking breath through the Hexoskin can help them identify or even predict optimum levels of activity and fatigue.
At the end of this pilot project, the research team will create a video. Through artistic expression, they will share experiences and outcomes from the pilot and explore what it meant to each individual. They will also share a new protocol for a singing and dancing program that can be adapted across Canada and beyond to improve access to safe and meaningful programming for individuals living with neuromuscular disorders!
For updates and findings from the Moving to Breath, Breathing to Move project, please visit www. mediainmotion.ca/projects.