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Area boxing gym empowers people with Parkinson's disease to fight back


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A boxing gym on Clearwater is using Parkinson's Disease Awareness Month to educate people about the importance of staying active after being diagnosed with the degenerative movement disorder.

Parkinson's Disease symptoms include deterioration of motor skills, balance, speech and sensory function.

Rock Steady Boxing Tri-Cities organizers say the program gives those living with the disease hope by offering a non-contact, boxing inspired fitness routine.

Physical therapist Gigi Valdez runs the program with her husband, Tony Valdez.

She says the program reduces many of the person's symptoms, improving their quality of life.

"There is strong evidence from clinical research studies that exercise helps Parkinson's," said Dr. Steven Gunzler, a neurologist for University Hospitals

Gigi says their boxers also use Rock Steady as a support group.

"We are about more than just one class or one program," she says. "Our mission is to provide hope and better quality of life for people with Parkinson's."

She says it's about having a community that understands what they're going through.

"Because a lot of times nobody really understands what someone with Parkinson's or their caregivers are going through," she explains. "That's why we want to reach out to them. There is an alternative to improve their quality of life."

The physical therapist says this year they've expanded from two classes to three, but they're always looking for more boxers.

She says current boxers are already seeing changes in their lives and in how they see the future.

Rock Steady Boxing, Inc. is a non-profit organization with 38-thousand members and over 775 locations worldwide.

Classes are geared to people at all stages of the disease, though it appeals to adults between 35- and 90-years-old.

Gigi says she and husband, Tony, plan to eventually expand the services of their support group.

She says they're planning to bring additional Parkinson's disease-friendly activities to the Tri-Cities, including a non-profit organization working specifically with the Parkinson's community.

More information and schedules are on their website:

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They're also on Facebook: Rock Steady Boxing Tri-Cities, WA.

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