Rock Steady, founded in 2006 by former Marion County Prosecutor Scott C. Newman after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 40, gives people suffering from the neurological disorder an outlet to ease their symptoms and improve their physical well-being.
Through noncontact boxing-inspired fitness classes, participants use exercise to slow the symptoms of the progressive neurological disease, which causes tremors, muscle rigidity, loss of balance and cognitive, speech and vision impairment.
The first and only boxing program of its kind in the country, Rock Steady is offered through affiliates across the United States, including The Social of Greenwood, which launched the initiative Nov. 12.
Classes are led by physical therapist Kristi Moore and Aboutium Fitness co-owner John Kyle. While stressing overall fitness, strength training, reaction time and balance, workouts utilize focus mitts, heavy, speed and double-ended bags, jump ropes, stretching, core work, calisthenics and weight lifting. Some participants are already noticing an improvement in their strength and mobility
Kyle, who was certified as a trainer in August, said he first heard about the program when it was offered on the Northside. “I knew it was something that I would like to do since I’ve been involved with fitness and boxing all my life. It’s great working with Parkinson’s patients. So many of them are accomplishing things that they didn’t think they could. They might complain that they are a little sore, but they are happy they came.”
The 90-minute programs, which attack Parkinson’s at its vulnerable points, are offered three times weekly. People mildly afflicted by the disease work out on Tuesdays; those with more advanced symptoms meet Wednesdays; everybody goes at it on Fridays.
More than 20 people are enrolled, and Kyle said he’s happy with that number.
So is The Social’s executive director, Bob Goodrum, who noted that he would be happy with 10 participants. “The program is popular, especially with our long-standing members. They are appreciative that we are offering it. With Kristi’s experience in physical therapy and John’s background in boxing, they complement each other well.
Due to self-conscious issues and noticeable symptoms of the ailment, many individuals with Parkinson’s avoid traditional fitness centers. But that’s no problem at The Social, 550 Polk St., where Rock Steady offers more than just a training program.
“It’s a support system,” noted Kyle, adding that camaraderie is strong among the participants. They can exercise safely, surrounded by peers fighting the disease. Everyone is experiencing the same thing; they understand the symptoms and challenges of the disease, he said. They realize there is something they can do about it to get better and perhaps slow down the course of their disease; that improves their overall outlook.
Academic institutions such as the University of Indianapolis and Butler University are reporting and documenting the improved quality of life among program participants, who readily agree.
Some people will see an almost immediate improvement, and that’s great, said Goodrum. “Others will maintain their health, but we also see that as success.”
Classes cost $10, the same as the initial assessment. ]
Parkinson’s affects about 1.5 million people in the United States. There is no cure, and its cause is unknown. As the noted Dr. Abraham Lieberman described it, “Every day, people with Parkinson’s awaken, trapped in their bodies.”
A center for seniors, The Social also offers strength, balance and stretching classes and Nia, a sensory-basement movement practice that draws from the martial, dance and healing arts. Instruction in folk dancing and how to use fitness equipment is also offered. More information is available by calling 882-4810.
Kyle, who foresees himself leading the Rock Steady program for some time to come, is scheduled to graduate this month from IUPUI with a degree in political science. He is an amateur boxer who has been an instructor at Indy Boxing South for nearly four years.
“The gym has always been a place for me to cope with any personal struggles,” the former Indiana Golden Gloves semifinalist said in an earlier interview. “I want to help give people their self-confidence back because my trainer gave that to me.”