"Sportrock Climbing Center" in Alexandria, Virginia, hosts a free rock climbing class twice a week for its students diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.
The idea came to instructor Molly Donelan after she met a climber diagnosed with early stages of Parkinson's. The neurodegenerative brain disorder affects the nervous system, which causes extreme shaking, slowness of movement and poor balance and coordination.
The facility is equipped with soft mats and climbers are harnessed in with the support of an instructor. Molly said the exercise is the perfect fit for Parkinson's patients who need to keep active, use wide lateral movements with legs, arms and hands. And she was right. The popular session that started with only a few participants has grown to about 10 to 15 students. Most climbers are able to scale the walls about two to three times in a single session.
A snapshot of Circa behind the scenes! We covered a Facebook live session of the class.
In her research and findings, Molly wasn't able to find rock climbing classes designed for Parkinson's patients. She believes she's onto something and hopes to spread the message at medical conferences where she can attract the attention of doctors and physical therapists.
The class is currently offered for free. The staff at Sportrock Climbing Center voluntarily give their time to serve as instructors to the class. But if Molly can convince medical professionals, she hopes insurance companies can help cover the costs of the class since it's solely based on exercises that are paramount to combating Parkinson's symptoms.
A detailed description of the class can be found on The Parkinson Foundation of the National Capital Area's website.