HOUSTON (KIAH) — April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month, and a local gym partners with a non-profit organization to host boxing classes for people impacted by this illness.

According to Rock Steady Boxing and The Parkinson’s Foundation, it is estimated that more than 1 million people in the United States are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. More than 60,000 people are diagnosed each year. 

Rock Steady Boxing is a fitness class taught in hundreds of cities around the world. Two Houston-area people who are facing the physical challenges of the disease are in the class. They say the program has improved their physical health in many ways.

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative movement disorder that can cause deterioration of motor skills, balance, speech, and sensory function. 

John Rankin, a 90-year-old participant of eight years, says the boxing class has improved many aspects of his life. His cognitive thinking, ability to write, and overall mobility.

“It has kept me out of a wheelchair and it’s been wonderful. I mean, there’s so much good exercise for the muscles in your body in boxing,” said Rankin.

The owner of the gym, Kevin Blodgett, says the purpose of the class is to enhance the overall quality of life for people with Parkinson’s disease through a non-contact, boxing-based fitness program.

“We are really here to improve people’s lives and Parkinson’s is a progressive disease. It has lots of different impacts on people,” said Blodgett.

Another member, Chan Daigle, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 15 years ago. Daigle says working alongside people who are experiencing the same struggles, has kept him coming back for two and a half years.

“It’s very motivational to hear other people talk about their symptoms with Parkinson’s. So I get a lot out of the interaction with Parkinson’s patients,” said Daigle.

The Rock Steady Boxing class in Memorial City started months before COVID-19 closed its doors. Since its re-opening, the program has expanded from two classes to six and serves many in our community with Parkinson’s disease.

To learn more about the disease, visit the Parkinson’s Foundation website.