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Pedaling helps Parkinson’s patients find community, wellness


Last updated 5/30/2018 at Noon

Two days a week, Parkinson's patients gather at the Mukilteo YMCA to ride stationary bikes alongside others affected by the disease.

"Pedaling for Parkinson's" combines bicycling with community to provide attendees with a beneficial hour of support and exercise.

“The data is there that bicycle riding has prolonged (Parkinson’s patient’s) fitness journeys,” Lisa Norton, Health and Well-Being director for the Mukilteo YMCA, said.

The class, offered from 12 to 1 p.m. every Wednesday and Friday, is designed to help increase joint movements to decrease some of the degenerative effects of the disease.

Patients who have attended the class say they have more energy, stronger legs and improved cardio, but they also have seen benefits from the social aspect of the program.

“With Parkinson’s we tend to isolate ourselves,” Kay Wagner, a “Pedaling for Parkinson’s” class member, said. “(This class) gets you out … I just believe that it is really helpful to have other associations with other Parkinson’s patients. We support each other.”

As coach of the Pedaling for Parkinson’s program at the Mukilteo YMCA, Donna Beard has received praise from the participants for her ability to be personable and motivating.

“The instructor is wonderful, and even if there is just two of us, she treats us like there is a classroom full,” Janette Christianson, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2016, said.

Beard is known for her willingness to adjust the pedaling pace for any rider who may need it. She recently bought specialty seats for a few of the YMCA’s bicycles that are now more suitable and comfortable for her “Pedaling for Parkinson’s” class-members.

“Everyone is at their own level,” Beard said. “The program will work for them and make modifications.”

The “Pedaling for Parkinson’s” program is free to any community member who would like to participate. The program lasts 12 weeks, and is intended to get progressively more difficult; however, members are still encouraged to join at any time, as the intensity can be adjusted to their skill level.

The program currently boasts about four members per class, with some members only being able to make it in for one of the classes per week. As word spreads about “Pedaling for Parkinson’s,” YMCA coordinators hope that it will continue to grow.

“My goal is to have a room full of people,” Norton said.

Beard encourages anyone who may be afraid or skeptical to at least give the class a chance.

“I think everyone who has done the 12-week program has seen results and had a positive experience,” Beard said.


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