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Rock Steady Boxing

Empowers People with Parkinson’s to “Fight Back”

“I really enjoy the camaraderie,” said Rock Steady Boxing (RSB) participant Barbara Michael. “I’ve learned I can do things I didn’t think I could.” The fun and interactive fitness program is helping local residents who are living with Parkinson’s develop better balance, strength and flexibility while building confidence and making new friends.

It’s estimated there are more than 1 million people in the United States with Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative movement disorder which can cause deterioration of motor skills, balance, speech and sensory function. More than 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. At Rock Steady Boxing, Parkinson’s is the opponent.

“My balance has really gotten better,” said the 75-year-old Huntingtown resident, who has taken the class since last fall. “Even my doctor said she could see a difference.”

Norma Ketay, who was diagnosed last summer, said, “I’ve noticed I have more strength. She praised their instructor. “Clemie (Pizzillo) is so positive. She leaves us with a big smile and a lot of great energy and I appreciate that so much.”

The 70-year-old Dunkirk resident added, “The class has given me a lot more confidence… just to accept what’s going on and to keep going.”

CalvertHealth sponsors the local Rock Steady Boxing class, which is an affiliate of the national RSB program. Seed funding for the program came from a $5,000 donation to the CalvertHealth Foundation by the Davidsonville Ruritan Foundation (DRF), which covered the start-up costs including staff training and equipment. The program is being sustained by participant fees but additional donations are welcome. “We’re proud to support such a worthwhile program that is producing such amazing results,” said DRF Director Eleanor Entzian.

The 90-minute class is offered three times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Patuxent Health Center in Prince Frederick. There are two sessions, level 1-2 for people who do not need any assistive device and level 3-4 for participants who use a cane, walker or wheelchair.

According to Pizzillo, she currently has 19 participants in the two levels including seven women and 12 men ages 63-81. She plans to add more sessions if enrollment grows. The fee for the class is $100 per month, which includes 12 classes. There is also a one-time $40 fee for the initial assessment, which determines which level is most appropriate for each participant. Registration is available online at CalvertHealthMedicine.org/ Classes.

Participants are required to get a medical release from their doctor. Pizzillo encourages anyone who is interested in finding out more about the program to come and observe a class.

She said, “Rock Steady Boxing is designed specifically for Parkinson’s patients at any stage–from the newly diagnosed to those who have been dealing with it for 20 years.”

Pizzillo emphasized the class contains a lot of variety from yoga and tai chi during the warm-up portion to chair and ball exercises and, of course, non-contact boxing. “They like the unexpected, the surprise and the fun, so we like to appeal to that.”

“Volunteers are a big part of the program,” said Michael. “They’re right there if we stumble or need some extra help.” Volunteers also help with set-up, putting on gloves and repeating instructions if a participant did not hear the instructions.

Janet Selke, 71, of Owings said she volunteered after observing a class. “Once you see the people and how hard they’re working, you want to be a part of it.”

She went on to add, “You just want to help them get better. We’re here for whatever they need. Sometimes, it’s just a hand or an arm to steady them or to just be there for them.”

At the beginning of each class, every participant gives a personal weather report. “It’s just one word,” said Pizzillo. “It used to be cloudy, gloomy and stormy. Now, I hear more sunny.”

Get Moving with BIG!

CalvertHealth Outpatient Rehabilitation offers LSVT® BIG, an intensive 16-week exercise program taught by specially trained therapists that is customized to the specific needs and goals of each Parkinson’s patient. It is a rigorous course aimed at improving the movements needed for everyday life. An at-home regimen is provided to maintain the positive benefits gained. A physician referral is required. Call 410.535.8180 for more information.

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