VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WVEC) — Parkinson’s disease has taken away basic skills from millions of people. The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation estimates there are more than one million people in the United States diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and more than 60,000 people are diagnosed each year.

Chuck Turner developed Parkinson’s disease about 10 years so, but was diagnosed just four years ago. It came right after he underwent a liver transplant.

“I didn’t really want to do anything when I found out, I was depressed,” said Turner.

After some encouragement from his doctors and his wife, the retired ATF worker decided to try an exercise class called “Rock Steady Boxing.”

Turner went from not being able to walk to the end of his own street to being able to walk miles at a time.

“It makes me feel good. It makes me feel like I’m winning a little bit and I’m not going to let it win,” said Turner.

The boxing class is the first of its kind in the entire country dedicated to fighting the disease. The exercises are rigorous and intended keep the disease from progressing.

“It’s a progressive disorder so exercise helps to either keep it from progressing or keep it at bay,” said Wendy Wilkerson, the Rock Steady boxing instructor.

Right now the only classes offered in Hampton Roads are at the Princess Anne and Blocker YMCAs. Turner says his sense of humor helps him get through life’s challenges. He brings that humor to class with him at the YMCA.

“He’s the jokester of the class so he likes to come around and tell jokes and pretend he’s in the witness protection program,” said Wilkerson.

The twisting movements of the boxing focus no balance and hand eye coordination, helping with the Parkinson’s symptoms.

“I feel like a winner. I feel like I’m winning against the disease a little bit,” said Turner.

The program started at Sentara Hospital but eventually moved to a partnership with the YMCA. Classes are offered Monday through Friday.

There are currently about 50 people enrolled in Wilkerson’s Rock Steady classes.

If you are interested in learning more about Rock Steady Boxing, please visit the YMCA website: here.

Facts about Parkinson’s: (YMCA website)

  • Someone is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease every 9 seconds.
  • It is estimated that there are 1.5 million people in the United States with Parkinson’s.
  • 1 out of 10 people over the age of 55 will be diagnosed.
  • Rock Steady is the first of its kind, non-contact boxing gym in the country dedicated to people with Parkinson’s disease.
  • Participants are men and women who range in age from late 30’s to their early 90s.