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Oxford YMCA Offers Strength Rehabilitation for Parkinson’s Disease, Mobility Issues

By Carson McKinney
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Retired Assistant Attorney Ralph Dean was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2018. Photo by Carson McKinney.

Being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease or other mobility issues can render someone’s faith and strength; however, members of the LOU community now have an opportunity to regain mobility from a local class.

The Oxford YMCA offers a weekly class dedicated to building strength and stability for members with Parkinson’s disease and other mobility issues.

The class is held on Tuesdays from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. and functions not only as an exercise class based upon stretching, weight training, boxing and more but also a support group where attendees can share experiences and motivate one another.

Oxford YMCA Operations Director Leslie Kennedy said the class was created in 2018 to better serve the needs of the Oxford-Lafayette community.

“I got interested in providing this program because we had a lot of people from the community ask ‘Hey, do you have anything for Parkinson’s patients?’ or even patients who have motor problems, flexibility problems or balance problems,” Kennedy said. “We heard from the community that there was just not anything geared toward that specific population.”

Oxford YMCA exercise specialist and personal trainer Corey Martin, who has 20 years of experience in exercise science and helping osteoporosis and arthritis patients, became interested teaching the class and received specialized training to become a certified Parkinson’s instructor. As a teacher, she works to cater to the unique needs of everyone in the class.

“You might have one individual that has bad tremors, you might have another individual with her balance off, you might have another one that their focus isn’t there,” Martin said. “Getting to know the people in my class as an instructor is very crucial because I kind of know how they tick, and I can help encourage because I know what their weaknesses are.”

Martin said he learns as he goes and tries to stay on top of what he is supposed to do as an instructor so he can make the class as successful as he can. Martin wants to be able to make each individual see results and improve from whatever their weakness is, he said.

Retired Assistant Attorney Ralph Dean was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2018 and said the care of his doctor, the support of his spouse and the exercise he gets in the YMCA’s class allow him to live a “pretty normal life.”

“There is no cure for Parkinson’s, but pretty much everybody agrees that exercises like the class we’re doing here greatly enhance your quality of life and may put off certain things like being put in a wheelchair,” Dean said. “There are things we can do as patients to help our physical well-being.”

Two people with Parkinson’s disease may not have the same symptoms. For example, Dean’s Parkinson’s is rigid, meaning he does not experience tremors and causes him to feel fatigued, especially on his right side, leading to coordination issues.

Becky Hiter, another class participant and recently-retired Northwest Community College art appreciation instructor, says other Parkinson’s patients can experience “hidden symptoms.”

“I may have bad anxiety and tremors, and somebody else might not have tremors. It can affect your self-confidence and your self-image because you feel like less of a person in different areas,” Hiter said. “Psychologically, it can take its toll as well as emotionally. Being active is probably the best thing we can do that we have control over, as long as our bodies are physically able to push and be active.”

Retiree and YMCA Board Member Ron Hipp does not have Parkinson’s; he had a stroke in November 2017 that left him with little to no feeling on the left side of his body. He has since recovered some of his strength through physical therapy and exercises like the ones offered in the YMCA’s weekly class. He says the class is helpful for anyone, not just Parkinson’s patients.

“I’d like to say that I would do the same class even if I was well,” Hipp said. “You work out a lot of different muscles in an hour’s time. It’s not just weightlifting. The pace is high-paced, and Corey is a hurricane when she comes through.”

In the future, Kennedy said the Oxford YMCA plans to add classes on more days of the week and offer different licensed Parkinson’s exercise programs.

For more information on the Oxford YMCA, visit the organization’s website.

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