Parkinson's patients punching out the disease

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OSHKOSH, Wis. (WBAY) - Exercise is great medicine, and a local group of people living with Parkinson's disease is taking that to heart working to punch the effects of the disease out of their lives.

Four couples dealing with Parkinson's disease from Touchmark in Appleton participate in the Rock Steady Boxing program at the Oshkosh YMCA (WBAY photo)

Four couples from Touchmark in Appleton, a full service retirement community, visited the Oshkosh YMCA to take a swing at Parkinson's Disease.

"It's affected his balance. He has a severe tremor. It's affected his speech, and sometimes it affects his memory," says Marly Divver about her husband, who has Parkinson's.

Not only is a husband or wife living with the disease impacted by Parkinson's, but their caregivers deal with it on a daily basis, too.

Touchmark's Health & Fitness Coordinator Calissa Palches says, "The disease doesn't just affect the resident, right? It affects the whole family, the friends, the family, so it's important to have the support group and have fun activities like this."

Rock Steady Boxing, a national program that uses the basic functions of boxing to address the symptoms of Parkinson's, has proven to be effective in helping the patient and the caregiver.

"We do force intensity activities, so it's really pushing the intensity of the exercise that really helps people push off the progression of the disease," says Kate Harrell, Rock Steady Boxing Coach. "They see a lot of improvement in their functional activities day-to-day, so being able to stay away from some of the negative effects of the disease."

The class also gets Parkinson's patients active in what has normally turned into a more sedentary lifestyle.

Palches adds, "There's lots of research out there that shows that exercise not only slows the symptoms down of Parkinson's but it also helps maintain the progression of the disease, which is really, really important."

And now that the couples have had a taste of Rock Steady Boxing, they hope to continue punching away at the disease.

Parkinson's patient Tom Divver adds, "It is pretty good exercise. It moves almost all parts of your body somewhere. Of course I can't stand up and move my feet like I used to, but that's the name of the game."