GILBERT, AZ — Parkinsons' disease is an incurable nervous system disorder that affects millions across the globe, but one Valley gym is catering to those who suffer from its effects and changing their lives.
Rock Steady Boxing near Lindsay and East Williams Field roads in Gilbert opened its doors in February.
The gym uses boxing as an outlet to help people cope with the disease and regain many of the senses they lost, including balance, flexibility, strength and even smell.
“We work on balance, hand-eye coordination, mobility, and dexterity," said Nikkel Nielsen, head coach at Rock Steady. "All things that Parkinson’s people have problems dealing with.”
“Washing my hair was a lot, it was something that I struggle with even to this day," said Maria Hernandez, who was diagnosed four years ago. "Coming to these classes really has helped and the mobility is there, the flexibility is coming back little by little.”
“ It really took a toll physically and psychologically, and boxing is helping bring some of that back," added Gary White. Diagnosed more than a decade ago, he says Parkinson's stripped him of his career, and many other abilities, but credits boxing for bringing his confidence back.
Rock Steady offers 2 to 3 classes a day and caters to every individual's abilities and needs. Nielsen says it's also a safe outlet for Parkinson's patients who can become frustrated with their physical limitations.
"They can beat up on the heavy bags, hit the focus mitts, and it’s just a way to take out frustrations by hitting something," said Nielsen. "I feel like sometimes people feel that way, they want to hit something.”