About one million people in the United States are living with Parkinson’s Disease in the United States. As that number continues to increase — unique fitness programs are helping many improve their motor skills and feel better both mentally and physically.

Rock Steady Boxing is a class offered nationwide to help people fight the disease and is part of the Empower Parkinson Inc. program in Central New York.

Patrick Van Beveren, 72, is a motivator with the program. He’s been a physical therapist for 50 years and has run Empower Parkinson Inc. in Central New York for about five years. The program includes numerous wellness classes for people battling Parkinson’s Disease at all stages.

“Boxing is kind of the cornerstone. It challenges everything that Parkinson’s is trying to steal away from people. Power, strength, coordination, agility, balance, all of those things. Boxing makes you use that so you can hold on to it longer,” said Van Beveren.

Rock Steady is a non-contact form of boxing that includes multiple stations broken down into rounds.

“We’ll make them throw punches, we’ll make them slip to either side. We’ll make them duck. All that has to do with motor control,” Van Beveren said.

Stations include things like bag punching, shadow boxing and other cardio and coordination exercises.

Karen Cataro is not only an instructor, but has Parkinson’s herself.

“The camaraderie of it is half the class. So, being together with people that have the same issues as you do. And, they don’t have to feel they’re at a gym where people are staring at them or don’t understand why they can’t do certain things. Here, everybody is just themselves,” said Cataro.

It’s important for class members like Jim Cook to make this effort, so he knows he’s doing all he can to fight the disease.

“It enables me to perform functions I didn’t think I could do psychologically. And, then therapeutically, it allows the body to make those changes as well,” said Cook.

And while the class sizes continue to grow, it’s becoming more evident that the classes are working. Rock Steady Boxing is a 501-C-3 non-profit organization that is offered in many regions of New York State.

For more information you can visit RockSteadyBoxing.org.