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Punching away Parkinson’s disease

Ross Brudenell was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He is in town from Rhose Island visiting his step-daughter and decided to try Rock Steady Boxing at Western Racquet & Fitness Club on Tuesday, June 26. Ben Rodgers Photo

By Ben Rodgers

ASHWAUBENON – With the theme from “Rocky” playing, 15 people with Parkinson’s took turns Tuesday, June 26, pounding the heavy bag, jabbing the speed bag, and working on drills to improve balance and coordination at Western Racquet & Fitness Club.

It’s called Rock Steady Boxing and it’s a partnership between Prevea Health and Western Racquet & Fitness Club to improve the quality of life for those with Parkinson’s disease.

Charlie Heidemann from Green Bay was the first to sign up in April. He said the class helps not only from the exercise but from what it stands for.

“In this class you are doing something to defeat Parkinson’s through the exercise you do,” Heidemann said.
He likens Rock Steady to a support group with exercise thrown in. Everyone taking the class is at some stage of Parkinson’s.

“In a short time, mentally, physically and spiritually, I think I’ve gotten better and slowed down some of the progressions of the disease,” Heidemann said.

Parkinson’s affects roughly 1 million people in the U.S. with nearly 60,000 new diagnoses annually, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation.

“Parkinson’s affects a part of the brain that controls movement so when the person starts to have problems; moving, safety and balance are a concern,” said Megan Pfarr, a doctor of physical therapy at Prevea Health. “So conditioning and supervised exercise are the perfect remedy.”

Rock Steady Boxing is a national class, but this is the only offering north of Milwaukee.

“We don’t in Green Bay have a lot support for healthy lifestyles for a lot of our chronic conditions, but Parkinson’s can benefit from exercise,” Pfarr said.

People with Parkinson’s can also have issues going about their daily normal lives, she said.

“This can be a population that can be self-conscious out in public because they can’t move the way they used to,” Pfarr said.

Those taking the class also benefit from seeing others go through the same problems they have been going through.

It’s the fact of doing something about the disease as a group that makes Heidemann recommend it to anyone with the disease.

“I realize it’s not for everybody, but if you look in there it’s people of all physical abilities,” he said. “They’re doing it, so why not try something different?”

Kari Merrill, Rock Steady Boxing program director at Western Racquet, said the group never ceases to inspire her.

“This is why we have a waiting list for volunteers, they’re an infectious group. It’s unbelievable,” Merrill said.

Rock Steady Boxing meets from 1:30 to 2:45 p.m. every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

The class currently has about 10 openings for people with Parkinson’s.

Each participant of the class is allowed to have a friend or family member help them. That person is called a corner man.

Each participant must also complete an assessment prior to starting.

For more information, or to schedule as assessment, contact Merrill at 497-1161 or email [email protected].

Rock Steady Boxing was made possible in Green Bay by a donation from Triangle Distribution and the Brown County Tavern League.

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