- Associated Press - Saturday, May 17, 2014

GREENWOOD, Ind. (AP) - The first steps were feeble, tentative and weak.

Parkinson’s disease had robbed Bill McFerran of his ability to walk and lift objects on his own.

But week after week, the Greenwood resident kept working. Regular exercise allowed him to move his arms over his head, to step deftly from side to side and to get up out of a chair without help.

Soon, his stride grew longer and his legs stronger.

“They teach you to think about every step, until you do it so much that you don’t have to think,” McFerran told the Daily Journal (http://bit.ly/1v4T302 ). “It becomes natural, like it used to be.”

McFerran and dozens of others like him have found a counterbalance to their condition. The Climb is a specially designed exercise program to fight Parkinson’s disease, putting men and women through a series of low-impact workouts.

The result is increased strength, improved mobility and possibly the reversal of the disease on the brain.

“It’s a place for people to come without the fear of judgment. Exercise is so important, but often they feel like they can’t go to a regular gym because people are looking at them,” said Lindsay Conn, a personal trainer and leader of The Climb in Greenwood. “That’s not the case here. Everyone is going through the same thing here.”

Participants gather each Saturday at New Hope Church in the Center Grove area to get in a workout.

Ed Jeffers, a southside resident, started at The Climb about two years ago, though he had recently missed sessions after having surgery. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 3½ years ago, and as his body became more rigid and unmoving, he searched for anything to help.

“I’m getting to the point where I wanted to try anything. I’ve always thought that exercise is good for you,” he said.

Patients range from those recently diagnosed with the disease to those who have been dealing with it for more than 20 years.

Some came with walkers or canes. Others could stand on their own, while certain members used the backs of their chairs for support.

But regardless of the severity of their condition, all tried their best to do the exercises.

They roll their heads in wide circles to stretch their necks and do the same with their arms. With 2½-pound hand weights, they completed bicep curls and shoulder presses.

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