Fifteen years ago, Darnley Holder’s life changed forever.
“I had a stroke,” he told Global News.
“I couldn’t read, I couldn’t write. I didn’t lose my mobility, but I lost my memory.”
Holder said he’s still able to talk today thanks to his determination to keep his brain and muscles moving.
Now, he’s bringing that philosophy to others through a unique exercise class tailored to stroke survivors and Parkinson’s patients.
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“It’s Darnley Holder that started the program, and he had enough faith in me to bring me on board,” said fitness instructor Kathy Bishop.
Two days a week, at Physical Park gym in Vaudreuil-Dorion, Bishop leads a group of participants through a series of exercises aimed at improving coordination, strength and balance.
“I feel better and I think I could be doing more of this probably,” said Douglas Sirrs, a participant with Parkinson’s disease.
An emphasis is placed on multi-tasking —; moving legs and arms simultaneously —; all the while reciting the alphabet or singing a song.
“We sing while we’re on the bike because their speech is affected,” said Bishop.
“We incorporate balance and strength and we just have a great time together.”
Bishop has been a fitness instructor for 25 years, but said she continues to learn alongside the participants.
“I see it, that they’re steadier on their feet,” said Bishop.
“They tell me all the time they’re really, really enjoying it, and that’s half the battle.”
“It doesn’t eliminate your shaking, but you can control it better,” said Pierrette Domingo, a participant with Parkinson’s.
Domingo has had the disease for seven years, and only recently found this program.
She told Global News the class is not only therapeutic for her body, but for her mind as well.
“I’m just very grateful that I found this place,’ Domingo said.
“I wish there would be more, because it brings so much happiness to everybody here.”
Holder hopes more people will become aware of the program, so they too can regain some of the independence that he came so close to losing.
“I see the importance of a program like this,” said Darnley Holder. “Why? Because I’m going through it.”