Ottawa YMCA offers ‘Moving with Parkinson’s’ class

Resident talks about how class has helped him

Frank Dunn has never been a “couch potato.”

In his 40-year career at Caterpillar in maintenance he performed physical work. An avid golfer, boater and jet skier, Dunn and his family were always on the go, which helped him stay in great physical shape

In the spring of 2017, Dunn received news that changed his world. His wife had made an appointment at Mayo Clinic because she sensed something wasn’t right. Dunn had been having problems with his wrist, but never expected to get the diagnosis the doctors returned. Dunn was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement, according to the Mayo Clinic’s website. Tremors are common, but PD also causes stiffness or slowing of movement. Dunn suffers from tremors with his hand and as he describes it “gets stuck” when walking. His doctor told him for people with (PD), exercise is more than healthy — it is a vital component to maintaining balance, mobility and activities of daily living.

The Parkinson’s Foundation research shows people with PD who start exercising earlier and a minimum of 2.5 hours a week, experience a slower decline in quality of life compared to those who start later.

Mary Levy, Ottawa YMCA Senior Fitness Coordinator, who knew Dunn as a family friend, suggested he attend her class. Levy, who started teaching the Y’s Silver Sneakers class in 2015, has developed a passion for helping seniors and those suffering from chronic disease. In addition to her Parkinson’s certification she is certified to teach the national evidence based classes EnhanceFitness and LIVESTRONG.

Dunn has thoughts to share on how to cope with this diagnosis.

“Keep moving, that’s basically the major message. You can get on YouTube and find exercise videos, but it’s better to come in and be with the people,” he said. “Otherwise it’s easy to procrastinate. I was not doing what I was supposed to be doing, but when you come to a class environment, you’re with people with like symptoms. It’s like having participated in sports my whole life, it gives you a feeling of camaraderie, as if you are part of a team.”

Levy would love to see more people participate in this life-preserving class.

“I have seen this class improve the quality of people’s lives,” she said. “I just want to get the word out to the people who can benefit most.”

The Ottawa YMCA’s “Moving with Parkinson’s” class meets from 1 to 1:45 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. The free class is included in a YMCA membership. The YMCA offers scholarship memberships to ensure everyone can participate in its programs.

For more information, contact the YMCA at 815-433-2395.