WILDER, Ky. -- It's common to hear chronic illnesses discussed in the language of combat -- a person 'fights' a disease. Each time they receive treatment, they continue their ‘battle' with their condition.
At Rock Steady Boxing NKY, a first-of-its-kind gym in Wilder, Kentucky, that metaphor becomes as literal as it can be: Its customers, all of whom have Parkinson's disease, don boxing gloves and slow its spread with good old-fashioned fisticuffs.
(Contact-free, in case you were worried.)
Parkinson's disease is a degenerative condition characterized by a gradual loss of motor control throughout the body, which affects speech, sensory function and ability to move.
According to Rock Steady Boxing's national website, those symptoms can be staved off through regular exercise that builds the skills it would otherwise destroy, such as hand-eye coordination, agility and speed. Just as a person with Alzheimer's disease might be able to slow its progression by staying active mentally, a person with Parkinson's can do the same by staying active physically.
There are emotional benefits to membership, too, said Rock Steady Boxing NKY owner Matthew Daniels.
"We want to establish a community here where everybody feels a safe haven," he said. "We're actually working to fight against the disease. People are sharing their experiences with each other; everybody's going through the same fight together."
Dan Kitzmiller, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2015, said he's already bonded with fellow members of the fledgling gym.
"It was great camaraderie," he said. "There were three other people here that are all kind of on the same boat -- same general age. We all felt this is the beginning of something really exciting."