Josephine Mack was devastated when she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, but she has found regular exercise helps her manage her symptoms.
Since 2018, Mack has been a member of Day One Fitness – an 8,000-square-foot gym designed specifically for people diagnosed with either Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease located at 257 Beech Island Avenue in Beech Island. “The first day I came here, I felt so much love,” she says. “They couldn’t have a better class.” Mack, who retired from the Richmond County School System after 42 years as a teacher, nutrition coordinator, and Director of Nutrition, takes classes at Day One five days a week. In 2018, classes met in a church on Fenwick Street in Augusta. Unlike other patients who live with the progressive neurological disorder, she has no tremors, but at times, she has trouble walking. Mack enjoys taking classes with others who deal with similar symptoms. “We have fun,” she states.
“We’re a family.”
Day One – a nonprofit that’s primarily funded by grants and donations, was founded in 2015 by Tambra Wilkerson, who serves as the gym’s President. Members pay a monthly fee of $100 for automatic bank draft, or $110 for check payments, which allows them to take unlimited classes. The gym offers a variety of classes, such as boxing, yoga, dance, and manual dexterity, according to Suzanne Denmark, who has served as the executive director for almost a year. Prior to that, she served as a volunteer for about a year. While nothing can stop the progression of Parkinson’s, “Research shows it (high-intensity exercise) slows the progression of symptoms,” says Denmark, who previously worked as an occupational therapist. She teaches many of the classes along with other coaches, three of whom have Parkinson’s. “We’re always working on balance and cognition,” Denmark states. “It helps with stamina, balance, and strength.”
In addition to fitness classes, Day One also allows members to use its equipment, which includes free weights, weight machines, and cardio machines, during designated open gym times. It offers one-on-one training for an additional fee. Staff from PT Solutions – a local physical therapy practice, also visit the gym to work with members. These services are paid for by members’ insurance or out-of-pocket. Classes meet Monday through Friday at various times of the day and vary in length. Boxing classes typically last an hour and 15 minutes, while dance classes meet for one hour. She explains the workouts provide numerous benefits for members, including improved sleep, cognition, and mood. “One of the other benefits that’s huge is the social and emotional support,” Denmark says. “They’re very encouraging of one another.”
COVID-19 presented many challenges for Day One, which closed for three months last year. During that time, classes transitioned from in-person to virtual, which she states wasn’t ideal because coaches couldn’t see how members performed the exercises. “This is not a regular gym; They regressed during COVID,” Denmark adds. “Some are still recovering.”
Despite Mack’s physical challenges, “It’s a blessing to be alive,” she says.
Day One Fitness currently has about 38 members and hopes to begin working with stroke patients in 2022. For more information, visit dayonefitness.org or call 803-265-1699.