Class changing the lives of Parkinson's patients
Eagle Staff Writer
Written by:
July 12, 2017

CRANBERRY TWP — A class at the Rose E. Schneider Family YMCA is changing the lives of people with Parkinson's disease.

Delay the Disease is an exercise and mobility program that helps people with Parkinson's disease manage their symptoms through a variety of light exercises, stretches and activities. Through the twice weekly class Kathy Hensler, healthy living director for the YMCA, engages the body and the mind and helps Parkinson's patients get some of their old lives back.

“I like it because it makes me feel better,” said Sandra Agnew, who has been coming since the class began last year.

The Delay the Disease program was developed by a personal trainer in Ohio to help people with Parkinson's disease manage their symptoms and maintain a quality of life. It's just one exercise-based program to help people with Parkinson's manage their symptoms.

The instructor must be certified in Delay the Disease structure, but they are free to put their own spin on it, Hensler said.

Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that has a range of motor and non-motor symptoms. The four cardinal motor symptoms are tremors, stiffness or rigidity, slowness and imbalance, said David Von Hofen, director of programs and outreach for the Parkinson Foundation of Western Pennsylvania.

Patients may also have issues with swallowing or speech and gait. There's no known cure for Parkinson's disease, but it can be treated with medication and surgery.

Exercise has shown to help patients manage some of their motor symptoms, said Von Hofen. It also may slow the progression of the disease.

“There's a lot of research being done with how regular vigorous exercise might impact the progression of the disease,” Von Hofen said. “There is evidence pointing to aerobic exercise having a neuroprotective benefit.”

Delay the Disease is held at 1 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays at the Rose E. Schneider Family YMCA in Cranberry. The cost is $20 for members and $30 for non-members for the Wednesday class and the same price for the Friday class.

Pegi Royston said she has more energy after the class is over, even though some of the exercises are challenging. She also enjoys spending time with the friends she's made there.

“I like the camaraderie of it,” Royston said.

Beginning exercises take place from a seated position, and exercises are modified as needed for each person. Hensler works on range of motion, balance, body mechanics and movement.

To activate the brain, Hensler has them do count out loud, enunciate vows and recite the alphabet and activities that use the right and left hands to activate different sides of the brain. They also work on relaxation, breathing and positive thinking.

Hensler said they end each hourlong class with group bonding and talking about positive energy.

“There's a lot of anxiety involved with not being about to do things you used to do,” Hensler said. “So I give them relaxation strategies …. We share something positive from the week, so they don't just focus on what they can't do but what they can do.”

Those interested in joining the class can contact Kathy Hensler at or 724-452-9122, Ext. 226.