Parkinson’s Patients Fighting Disease One Punch At A Time

We first told you about a boxing program aimed at helping people with Parkinson’s Disease in April. The first and only facility in South Dakota opened it’s doors in May. And within just a few months, the patients are starting to notice a difference. KDLT’s Jill Johnson takes us inside the studio at the Inn on Westport in Sioux Falls.

The Rock Steady Boxing Studio has 25 members. They range in age from 40 to 85-years-old, and travel from as far away as Mitchell and Yankton to be here. But there’s one thing they have in common. They all have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system.

Roger VanMaanen of Inwood said, “Two fingers started twitching, so I went to the chiropractor and figured I must have a pinched nerve somewhere.”

The 61-year-old was diagnosed 16-years-ago. He has a brain stimulator to keep his symptoms in check, but was still losing his balance at least once a week.

VanMaanen said, “I was starting to lose my balance bad enough, I was starting to fall.”

He joined the boxing program three months ago, and hasn’t fallen since.

Sixty-two-year-old Meldon Kroeger of Hartford was diagnosed three-and-a-half years ago.

“That’s why I’m in the boxing class to try and maintain where I’m at, because if you once lose it, it’s hard to regain it back,” said Kroger.

Three months later, Kroeger has not only maintained, but noticed a difference in his balance, flexibility, and strength.

Kroeger said, “We come in with clean clothes on and you walk out of here sweating. I hate the workouts, but when I’m done with the session I can’t wait until I come back in two more days to do it again.”

But for many of them, the classes are not just a physical workout.

“Everybody here is in your corner. Everybody here has the same problem,” VanMaanen said.

With Mohammad Ali watching on, they continue to fight mentally too.

Kroeger said, “When we walk into the gym, we’re no longer Parkinson’s patients, we’re athletes.”

The nonprofit organization was started in 2006 by a patient in Indianapolis. There are more than 300 Rock Steady gyms in 46 states across the nation.

The 2017 Step Big Walk for Parkinson’s takes place in Sioux Falls on Saturday, Aug. 19 at the Sioux Falls Canaries Baseball Stadium.