John Goulet signed up for the Tri-City Court Club’s new cycling class designed for people with Parkinson’s disease, and by the end of the first week he felt different.
In the best way.
“I got up in the morning and felt almost normal,” the 74-year-old Pasco man said. “I had a little ambition, which is usually totally lacking. I wasn’t as shaky. I got through a whole day with very minor shakiness. It really seemed to help calm things down.”
The class, called Pedaling for Parkinson’s, debuted earlier this month.
The first 10 weeks are free, and participants don’t need to be members of the Court Club in Kennewick.
They pedal for an hour on stationary bikes, with Court Club staff on hand to support and encourage.
A sensor is attached to a pedal and it sends information to an app that tracks data such as revolutions per minute.
The California-based Beneufit provided the app and wireless sensors.
The company recently completed a 12-week pilot study that found a 25 percent improvement in manual dexterity and a 38 percent improvement in fitness levels through the program.
“We know it works; the science is well understood and partnering with innovative fitness center such as (the Court Club) is a win for everybody,” said Beneufit co-founder and CEO Jeff Broderick in a statement.
Researcher Dr. Jay Alberts and author and advocate Nan Little are advisers.
Alberts started Pedaling for Parkinson’s, and the program also is offered at other sites around the country. The Court Club is the first site in the Tri-Cities.
Parkinson’s is a progressive nervous system disorder. About 60,000 Americans are diagnosed every year. It can strike younger people, although the average age at onset is 60.
There is no cure.
Ryan Vogt, the Court Club’s fitness director, said a member heard about the cycling program and brought it to staff’s attention. The club also opened an Aqua Motion class to the participants.
“We’re providing a program that’s in demand in our community. I love the fact that our club sees the benefit of helping the community, and we give back,” said Lori Powell, a certified personal trainer who is helping lead the class.
Goulet pedaled away on a recent morning, with several other class members on bikes nearby.
Fellow class member Ingrid Smith, 69, of Kennewick, said she sees the physical benefits of the program.
“When you have Parkinson’s, your voice gets softer because your breathing gets shallow. Being on the exercise bike for an hour, you breathe harder, so your voice projects better,” she said.
Plus, the program “keeps you moving. The bicycle — it keeps your muscles limber, able to move faster,” Smith said.
And there’s another positive aspect too.
“When you’re with a group, it’s more empowering, more challenging,” Smith said. “You have somebody to work out with, especially somebody who’s facing the same challenges you are.”