More than 5,000 people in West Virginia are living with Parkinson’s Disease. The disease affects the nervous system and you often see symptoms like tremors and slow, unexpected movements by those living with it. For some, living with the disease is getting easier.
It’s been one year since Dick Stewart started the “Rock Steady Boxing” program at the YMCA in Huntington.
“It was a challenge at first, it still challenges us physically but we’ve acclimated and gotten better at the technique,” Stewart said.
Stewart, along with the rest of the men and women in his class, have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Generations ago, it was a death sentence and something few talked about, but today medication and programs like Rock Steady help many fight the effects of the disease.
“When the doctors evaluate me they say they can tell I’ve improved. motion is greatly affected by parkinson’s and it’s gotten better,” Stewart said.
Participants often wear weighted gloves and do drills to help them build muscle and learn balance.
Teresa Sexton is a Registered Nurse with Cabell Huntington Hospital and helped start the program.
“What we know with Parkinson’s is if you rest you rust. If you sit down you don’t get back up,” Sexton said. “So, you have to keep moving, you have to keep the muscles flexible. you have to keep them toned. You have to keep them strengthened.”
While medications can help with some symptoms, exercise is the only treatment that has been medically proven to slow the progression of the disease.
“There’s no reason to sit around and get worse,” Stewart said.
Men are more likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s, but studies also confirm the number of people diagnosed with Parkinson’s increases with age, regardless of sex.