Health Check: Therapy for Parkinson's disease

A type of therapy for Parkinson's disease doesn't involve drugs or surgery. (WJAR)

A type of therapy for Parkinson's disease doesn't involve drugs or surgery.

The therapy takes place in a gym at the South County YMCA in Peace Dale.

"My balance is better,” Bob Richardson said of his new workout routine. “My stamina is better."

The workout, known as Rock Steady, is a non-contact, boxing-based fitness curriculum developed in Indiana in 2006 specifically for Parkinson's patients. There are now more than 340 Rock Steady programs, with the South County Y getting on board about four months ago.

“I had no idea that there was such a huge need in the state of Rhode Island and once I had that level of education on what we should be doing, it was a no brainer,” said Sheila Litty, director of the South County Y. “We had to get it here.”

Carolyn Kosiba-Quiterio, who is the senior health and wellness director at the South County Y, described the workout.

"Basically, we break up into stations and we do anything from boxing -- on the floor boxing bags,” Kosiba-Quiterio said. “We do the speed bags. We do drills on the floor with tuck and roll."

Bob Preston, who helped lobby to bring this workout to the southern part of the state, said it’s making a "big difference” in many lives.

“It's better than the meds,” he said.

And he should know. Preston has been doing Rock Steady for almost three years.

"I'm in much better physical condition,” he said. “It slows the progression of the disease, slows progression of the symptoms. I just, overall, feel better."

Preston’s wife, Marianna, said she’s seen an improvement.

"He couldn't do the bike at all at first,” said Marianna. “That was way too much."

"They come in looking to us for help and we bring them in and we tell them in four weeks they're going to see a difference and they have," said Kosiba-Quiterio.

"A huge difference," admitted Richardson. "There's something about the rhythm, the coordinated rhythm of the bike and the boxing. It's like muscle memory kicks in and he's more balanced and can walk.”

The Rock Steady Class at the South County Y is offered five days a week.

Each class has about 12 to 14 participants. It is open to any Parkinson's patients, but those who are members receive a discount.

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