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Sunday February 18, 2018, 3:41 am

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Parkinson's therapy program starts in Leamington
By Bryan Jessop

Patients of Parkinson’s Disease in the Leamington area and beyond are learning how to take some serious jabs at the effects of their conditions.

Boxing veteran Andre Courtemanche has stepped forward to assist local residents handling the effects and symptoms of Parkinson’s with a weekly series of workouts commonly associated with the sport he has been dedicated to for the past 30 years. The 60-minute sessions take place in the Exercise Room at Seacliff Manor each Thursday starting at 10 a.m. and are open to patients of Parkinson’s Disease from throughout Essex County.

Courtemanche approached Piroli Group Developments and Seacliff Manor recreation manager Erin Cousineau in search of a location to conduct the therapeutic sessions about two months ago. Rob Piroli offered the use of the Manor’s Exercise Room at no cost, which in turn allows Courtemanche to provide the courses free of charge. He was previously hosting a similar program at other locations, but at a rental cost. 

“They like the room and the atmosphere, so we’re happy to let them use our space,” said Cousineau, who noted that while there are not currently any Seacliff Manor residents with Parkinson’s utilizing the program, they are welcome to do so.

With boxing workouts known to help patients of the neurodegenerative condition maintain mobility and motor skills, the local trainer’s ‘students’ have noticed positive results following only a handful of sessions.

“This is great for people with Parkinson’s,” said program participant Ivor Johnstone during the third weekly gathering at Seacliff Manor. “You really have to be thinking about what you’re doing, so it keeps the brain going. It’s as much about the brain as it is about brawn.”

Courtemanche, whose sons Don and Andre Jr. are also heavily involved in boxing, also conducts boxing programs as exercise and workout courses for non-Parkinson’s students at Movati Athletic in Kingsville on Tuesday nights and Saturday mornings as well as at Leamington Fitness on Wednesday mornings. So far, the specialized program at Seacliff Manor has drawn as many as six students at one time. Courtemanche explained that while that turnout is ideal, he could accommodate as many as 10 at a time.

Over the course of the 60 minutes, participants go through seven or eight different stations including warm-ups and stretches, shadow boxes, use of the ‘heavy bag’, slam ball, push ups, sit ups and sparring where Courtemanche takes jabs and uppercuts with a set of punch mitts.  In the event that more students attend, he can set up more stations.

“I really thank Erin and The Piroli Group for letting us use this room,” Courtemanche explained. “I wanted to set up something in a room on the main floor. You can see it on their faces that they really enjoy it. I’m just so happy I can help — for me, this is a passion.”
Courtemanche brings his own equipment for use at each gathering, but noted that boxing gloves can be purchased locally at Canadian Tire for less than $50 per pair.


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