Red Deer gym sparring with Parkinson's disease

By Josh Hall (Twitter: @Vancan19)
March 10, 2019 - 1:07pm

A boxing program in Red Deer is giving people with Parkinson’s a new lease on life.

Dopamain Gym, which is run by Doug Rowe, began in March 2016 with one client, but has since grown to around 25.

This Tuesday, for the second year in a row, the gym will join with students from Red Deer College’s Adaptive Physical Education class to showcase what they’re doing. The class is part of the college's Kinesiology program.

“What we do is a perfect example of adapting a sport and applying it to a totally different clientele with great success,” Rowe says.

“We talk about the amazing successes we’ve had as a program, how we’ve improved basically peoples’ lifestyles, their Parkinson’s scores, and their quality of life. Then the students ask us a bunch of questions.”

The event, which is taking place at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre, will also include sparring demos with student volunteers holding pads.

“We have one lady who could not taste food for three years, and after being with us for six months, she could taste food again,” says Rowe.

“A lot of our fighters have what’s called the Parkinson’s mask, which is a perfect poker face. It never changes. Within three weeks, that mask was gone on every one of our clients. We had one person come in with a walker, he transitioned to a cane, and now he’s walking on his own power and dancing for the first time in years.”

Rowe explains a large focus of the program is challenging participants to engage their fight or flight response.

“The brain has a huge amount of plasticity, and we live in such a sedentary society that we don’t engage our fight or flight mechanism hardly at all,” he says.

“By engaging that, we have the brain produce dopamine, then it produces endorphins and all kinds of good chemicals, and that opens up new neural pathways, and refurbishes old ones, gets them firing again.”

Rowe notes that Lacombe could also soon be getting a similar program.

For more information on Dopamain Gym, visit their Facebook page.

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