In the small town of Ballentine, just north of Columbia, Athlete’s Arena shares its athletic facilities with the nonprofit organization Rock Steady Boxing.  For two classes a day, five days a week, Rock Steady Boxing helps people overcome the debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Dale Aldrich was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2015. When he first joined Rock Steady Boxing, his coordination was very low. Over time, with exercise, a determined mind, and a few rough patches, Dale is now the expert at the gym on the punching bag.

“It was frustrating,” Aldrich said as he toyed with the punching bag. “It was very frustrating because I had been athletic my whole life and not to be able to hit the punching bag, it was horrible.”

Rock Steady Boxing, provides fitness circuits to those diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The non-contact boxing routines aim to improve the physical, mental and emotional quality of life for participants. Each exercise completed during the Rock Steady Boxing classes is specifically geared toward targeting different sections of your body and the creation of dopamine, and the results are undeniable.

Gwen Taylor, a certified Rock Steady instructor, leads the group exercise. Although Taylor is not a victim of Parkinson’s, her daughter has two close friends who are, which inspires her to give back to the community and keep herself fit at the same time.

“No two patients experience the same side effects of Parkinson’s,” Taylor said about the condition of her clients.

“The diagnosis of this disease is quite odd. There are no tests and no blood work to be done. Basically, they give you medicine and if it helps the side effects…then you have Parkinson’s.”

Parkinson’s disease, which scientists have linked to low or falling levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter, affects almost every function of the body. Over time the symptoms, including tremors, slowed motor function, insomnia and fatigue. Vigorous exercise creates dopamine and helps slow down the progression of these symptoms.

For more information on Rocksteady, class locations, and the work that the organization does, visit: www.rocksteady