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YMCA cycling class aims to fight Parkinson's disease

Contributed to the Times News • Apr 14, 2019 at 8:30 PM

KINGSPORT — Three times a week at the Kingsport YMCA, people diagnosed with Parkinson’s are combating the disease with something just as important as medication in a bottle — exercise on stationary bikes.

The Parkinson’s Cycling Class helps develop strength and coordination in Parkinson’s patients. It’s provided at no cost to those with the disease, even if they aren’t members of the Y. Sessions are held every Monday and Friday from noon to 1 p.m., along with an hour-long session on Wednesdays beginning at 12:15 p.m.

Research has shown that exercise can relieve some of the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s. Regular exercise is essential for people with Parkinson’s to maintain balance and mobility, and it might help slow the progression of the disease.

In specific, exercise on a stationary bike has been shown to help improve signaling and function in affected sections of the brain. Improving such signaling helps build muscles of the lower leg in a safe way, leading to easier maneuvering of everyday activities and increased energy levels. Cycling also provides a welcoming environment of support to be with others facing the same challenges.

Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative condition in which a deficiency of dopamine, a brain-signaling protein, leads to a progressive deterioration of muscle-related control and regulation. As a result, the primary symptoms are tremors, stiffness, decreased movements and postural instability, which leads to falling.

Parkinson’s is one of the fastest growing diseases for people over 65, although it can develop in much younger individuals as well. To help bring attention to the disease, Mayor John Clark recently declared April as Parkinson’s Awareness Month in Kingsport.

Clark stated that the city is supportive of raising awareness of the disease and its symptoms and communicating resources available through the YMCA. He also advocated for patients and their caregivers to take advantage of the support offered in the community.

In Kingsport, members of a monthly Parkinson's support group meet at the YMCA. They have been working closely with the Y to increase awareness of Parkinson’s and to give encouragement to patients and their caregivers throughout the Tri-Cities area. For questions about the Kingsport YMCA’s support of Parkinson’s patients, contact Tyler Ramey at tramey@ymcakpt.org.

Support groups are also active in Johnson City and Bristol. For more information on the Johnson City group, contact Peggy Willocks at tnpeg1@gmail.com. For Bristol, contact Sandra Honeycutt at sandracares.bowman@gmail.com.