Rocky Mount, Va. (October 24, 2017) –The Franklin County Family YMCA is poised to expand its Parkinson’s Program, which offers those with the disease a way to manage their symptoms with exercise. The program builds on ScriptFit, a unique YMCA program which gives physician-referred clients access to personal training at a special rate. The Y’s Parkinson’s program is the only one of its kind in Franklin County, and has been steadily growing since its inception last year.
“What makes our program work- the trainers not only know what they’re doing with the equipment, exercises and drills, but they have a personal passion for this type of training, and they know how to translate that to the needs of their clients,” said Kevin McAlexander the YMCA’s Branch Director.
Non-contact boxing training has become a popular and effective approach to managing the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. The Y’s program began in 2016 after several ScriptFit clients with Parkinson’s enrolled, seeking therapeutic exercise options for the condition.
“Progress is different for each client, but you can see the improvements in their movement and posture happening before your eyes.” said Simpson.
Simpson draws upon his knowledge and skills as a martial artist and personal trainer to design and conduct training sessions. A typical session combines targeted balance, flexibility, cardio and resistance training with boxing drills.
“We start with drills that warm up the brain’s ability to communicate across hemispheres and respond to changes in balance and stability, then move into strength exercises that target weakened muscles and movement patterns. After that we start working rounds on the double end bag, heavy bag and focus mitts. Throughout all of this, we work in modified jump rope rounds to elevate the heart rate, gradually adding in increasingly challenging footwork and crossovers,” says Simpson.
All of the participants exercise between sessions, using the Y’s indoor track and cardio equipment to log additional time at sustained heart rates.
The program can be modified to meet the needs of the Parkinson’s population, whose symptoms and age-related conditions can vary. Although the clients report improvements in Parkinson’s related symptoms, the program has also helped them to improve in other areas too.
“Everything is scaled to the individual; if certain symptoms are worse that day, we might change plans and emphasize one area more than others. One client had a significant fall a few weeks ago, but came through it with no injuries, which he and his doctor credit to his involvement in the program. Another started out unable to control his descent onto a chair, now he can bob and weave like he’s been doing it his whole life,” said Simpson.
The brain-health benefits of exercise come from maintaining a moderately elevated heart rate for 20-45 minutes 3-5 days per week, but the best results come from incorporating activities that challenge timing and reaction time, coordination, spatial awareness and problem solving. Boxing training methods are uniquely suited to offer these conditions. There is a significant body of research that shows that moderately intense exercise maintains existing brain cells, supports growth of new ones and encourages circulation and connections between them, improves memory, alertness, mood, cognition, and coordination. These improvements can happen at any age. You can be 17 or 70 and the potential is still there.
ScriptFit is available at all three Franklin County YMCA locations, and the boxing program is available at the Rocky Mount and Smith Mountain Lake branches. For more information on the Y’s Parkinson’s program, ScriptFit, and other programs, contact Randy Simpson at 489-9622.