Laughter is the best medicine: The Second City® improvisation as an intervention for Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s Disease Exercise & Fitness Community Forums New PD Research & Clinical Trials Laughter is the best medicine: The Second City® improvisation as an intervention for Parkinson’s disease

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      I checked the calendar, and no it is not April 1.

      A recently published study by neurologists at Northwestern University in Chicago sent Parkies to a Second City comedy improvisation class for 12 weeks to determine whether or not it was beneficial for PD symptoms.

      That’s it…there’s no punch line. Well, maybe the punch line is that if you want to read the full report from the study, it will cost you $35.95, with a two drink minimum.

      So while I’m curious about how they measured symptom improvement in this study, I’m not curious enough to part with that kind of cash. That leaves me stuck with the Cliff Notes version on PubMed, which concludes:

      (95%) participants enjoyed the class and felt it was beneficial for their symptoms. A significant improvement pre-to-post intervention was seen with the UPDRS part II ADL measure.

      For more info on the study see

      And some older news coverage about Northwestern University’s Movement Disorders Center working with Second City:

      Parkinson’s Patients At Northwestern Get Improv Lessons From Second City –

      Second City teaching Parkinson’s patients improv as a coping mechanism –

      One of the references in the study also caught my attention: “Active Theater as a Complementary Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease Rehabilitation: A Pilot Study” at This is a surprisingly insightful study that suggests the importance of social interaction to improve quality of life and perception of well-being for Parkies, counteracting isolation, depression and apathy.

      Taking those lessons back to the improv study…laughter is great, but I think the point is that the positive effects are from the socialization, and the thought/cognition process required for improv.

      So don’t blow off your daily exercise to sit on your sofa and binge watch all 98 episodes of Gilligan’s Island. Make time to share a laugh with friends. As a matter of fact, socialization is one of the added benefits of group exercise classes for PD…another reason I like Rock Steady Boxing.

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