Nebraska YMCA designs class for people with Parkinson’s

April 7, 2018

NORFOLK, Neb. (AP) — When Elaine Halferty of Norfolk was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease two years ago, she wouldn’t talk about it.

It was a tough diagnosis to receive, learning she had a progressive, degenerative neurological disease — especially since it has no cure.

But she started on medication and enrolled in a class — Foundations of Movement — at the Norfolk Family YMCA.

She credits that class for a lot.

Since starting it, her medication hasn’t changed, she visits her doctor every six months instead of every three, and she hasn’t fallen in two years — which she was doing quite a bit when she first was diagnosed.

And she’s able to sit down for an interview about it all, which never would have happened before.

Now she’s ready to kick things up a notch with a new activity — boxing.

Halferty plans to be a part of a new class at the YMCA called Rock Steady Boxing. It will be held from 1 to 2 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays with the first class on April 17, the Norfolk Daily News reported. An open house will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. on April 10.

The class is specifically designed for people with Parkinson’s.

“The thing that sets it apart is it’s forced intense exercise, where a lot of classes it’s not very intense. But with this we are getting them uncomfortable,” said Tina Collison, who will teach the class at the YMCA. ”... The philosophy behind it was with Parkinson’s, we need to work on balance, we need to work on coordination, focus — all those components are in boxing, and that’s the connection.”

Participants will glove up and move through a series of two-minute rounds — which could include speed bag, heavy bag, jump rope and ladder — during the one-hour class.

Rock Steady’s founder, Scott Newman, of Indianapolis, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 39 — created the class after discovering training like a boxer lessened his symptoms. So, just like boxers, the class will train participants to improve balance, hand-eye coordination, speed of movement, agility, muscle power, mental focus and rhythm.

All that might sound intimidating, but Halferty is excited, even though she said she hasn’t jumped rope in years.

Foundations of Movement was also designed by a Parkinson’s patient — Gary Sobol of Boulder, Colorado though it’s open to others who might be recovering from a stroke or heart attack or dealing with multiple sclerosis, aging or other issues.

Collison teaches the Foundations of Movement class along with Nancy Lammers.

“Some of the people in Foundations have been coming since it started or shortly after, and they are ready for a challenge,” Lammers said.

Foundations of Movement has proven popular with its focus on balance, strength and having fun, Lammers said. And there’s already quite a few interested — even from Foundations — in the non-contact boxing class.

Plus, the classes should complement each other.

“Their disease isn’t going to go away. When someone first starts, they improve and then it plateaus and then it will eventually go back down,” Collison said. “That would be where, I’m going to send you off to Foundations of Movement, but if they’re (doing well), then it’s like I’m going to send you to Rock Steady Boxing.”

And just like participants in Foundations of Movement are able to bring a caregiver, Rock Steady Boxing clients can bring a “corner man” if they need assistance.

Collison said during her training in Indianapolis, she witnessed participants ranging from the newly diagnosed to Parkinson’s patients with walkers and wheelchairs partaking.

She left the training feeling empowered and strong.

The hope is that participants will, too.

“Now I’m well aware of what the future with Parkinson’s is going to be, but as long as I can keep moving and exercising, I feel good,” Halferty said. ” ... You can’t change the fact that you have Parkinson’s, but by exercising and being active, the change in how you feel also affects your attitude.”


Information from: Norfolk Daily News, http://www.norfolkdailynews.com

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