“So what is this like for you Greg when you are boxing ? Tiring.”
Carrying my tape recorder, I get into the boxing ring with Greg Eggert, a Cobb County resident who has Parkinson’s Disease. He wears his shiny red boxing gloves as he pounds a black punching bag like a champ. At 72 years young Greg has great stamina despite a tremor in his right hand.
"My neurologist tells me exercise exercise whether you want too or not. Exercise since I retired has not been top of the list to do, but with a Parkinson's diagnosis, if you're going to do well and have a good life for the rest of the time you have left, and you see some results, exercise just becomes part of the day."
Greg was diagnosed three years ago, and takes medication, but he and his team of doctors are finding exercise, specifically boxing classes at the YMCA in Kennesaw are helping to build strength in his muscles and keep his balance in check when he walks.
Greg tells WSB Radio "The Parkinson's classes have done wonders for me, the boxing is good strength movement, it teaches you different numbers, and the different numbers go with certain punches, so the boxing instructor will say, give me a one, four, five, seven and you have to remember that and tie it to movement which helps your balance, and it's a lot of fun too."
The verbal commands in conjunction with the physical activity appear to really help, “you have to put both together, and my biggest problem is balance, so this helps me work and concentrate.”
Abby Price, Wellness Director at the Northwest YMCA in Kennesaw watches Greg work out during our interview, “it’s a great feeling, I love to see the progress. It’s amazing, there is no better feeling when you get to see someone be successful that maybe had lost hope when they were first diagnosed, and then they come and find this whole community, people who are struggling just like they are, and they are able to be successful through the classes that we offer here at the Y.”
Price says, “It’s very inspirational, if somebody like Greg, who is diagnosed with Parkinson’s is able to come and be committed to the classes they are taking, then it gives us the ability to let all our other members know who aren’t struggling with this disease, that they are able to succeed as well.”
Director of Program Management at Metro Atlanta YMCA, Jennifer Rewkowski tells WSB Radio the Y has a variety of activities Parkinson’s patients can do depending on the progression of the disease, “we started about five years ago with basic movement classes, stretching, strength work with dumbbells, small balls, bands, a little bit of cardio work, just things to get our participants up and moving.”
From there a Parkinson’s cycling class was added, and then in just the past three months the Parkinson’s boxing program offered.
Rewkowski says the feedback has been tremendous “it not only works on hand-eye coordination, and motor skills, but also the brain, remembering movement patterns and punching patterns. It’s a great workout and the repetitive motion appear to be key in preventing the disease from progressing.”
The YMCA welcomes Parkinson’s patients who are newly diagnosed to people who are in wheelchairs. Rewkowski say patients in wheelchairs are able to participate in a Parkinson’s movement class designed to use the upper body.
Greg says “exercise, absolutely is part of my daily life and I have grown to enjoy it, it’s become fun.”
Greg says the Instructors and other Parkinson’s patients in his classes are his support group, “there are people in the classes who have the same diagnosis, and we talk about it and discuss symptoms, it’s important for motivation, knowing there is support here at the Y, it’s good to know there are other folks out there just like yourself.”
The classes including Boxing are free with a YMCA Membership.