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After COVID closure, Parkinson’s boxing program returns for another round

About a dozen athletes stricken with Parkinson’s disease are throwing jabs and uppercuts, all to try and get an upper hand on their symptoms.

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — The gloves are back on and the heavy bags are getting hit once again.

After over a year and a half, the program known as “Beat Parkinson’s Today,” has returned to the ring, or in this case, the gym floor.

Inside their East Hartford workout facility, about a dozen athletes stricken with Parkinson’s disease were throwing jabs and uppercuts, all to try and get an upper hand on their symptoms. The classes focus on calisthenics and punching bags – never hitting each other.

“Two weeks after COVID, we closed down, we started virtual classes and we had virtual classes all through Covid and just a month ago we opened up in-person classes again,” Michelle Hespeler, the founder and chairwoman of Beat Parkinson’s Today, told FOX61.

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Now that classes are back, participants like 74-year-old Zane Ray, from Farmington, are happy to be mixing things up in person. Ray was diagnosed with Parkinson’s four years ago.

“The energy we get from each other, that’s the big thing,” said Ray. “My movements are quicker,” he added.

Credit: Jimmy Altman/FOX61

Mary Smeallie, who has been battling Parkinson’s disease since 2013 said boxing workouts have made her more flexible.

“I’m not as tremorish (sic), and it boosts my mood,” she said.

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Hespeler, who has been fighting Parkinson’s disease for more than a decade, said her Beat Parkinson’s Today program continues to expand with classes offered in East Hartford, Cheshire, Farmington, Guilford, and Vernon and opening soon in New Britain, Mystic, and Southbury.

Credit: Jimmy Altman/FOX61

“It’s our medicine, it’s something we have to do every day,” she said. “When we are hitting those bags and boxing, we’re beating up Parkinson’s Disease.”

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To learn more about Beat Parkinson’s Today, visit www.beatpdtoday.com

Jimmy Altman is a reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at jaltman@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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