Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Exercise Class Helps Those with MS 'Keep Moving'

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Exercise Class Helps Those with MS 'Keep Moving'

Article excerpt


She's the class clown.

Leaning on a cane as she laboriously walked into her exercise class at a Southside facility, Caren Gardella quipped, "Welcome to our pain and torture session."

Gardella uses humor to defuse the seriousness of her disease. She's a stand-up comic, after all, who's performed in Los Angeles and at the Comedy Zone in Mandarin. To explain that she's not drunk - just has a balance problem - she's incorporated it into her shtick.

"When you have a disability, you should mention it to the audience, or they'll be concerned about what's wrong with you," said Gardella, who added she's 59 but teasingly notes she has a fake ID listing her age as 21.

Despite being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1994, the Mandarin-area resident said her balance and speech have improved. Gardella attributes that to a new adaptive exercise class she's attended for two months.

"Keep Moving" is designed for people living with MS. It's funded by the MS Society of Northeast Florida and offered by Brooks Rehabilitation through the Brooks Family YMCA at 10423 Centurion Parkway N. on the Southside. A progressive disease of the central nervous system, MS's symptoms may include numbness, speech impairment, blurred vision, severe fatigue and muscle weakness.

The free class was launched in October and is offered from 2 to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Participants start with 15 minutes of cardiovascular warm-ups on a stationary bike before moving into the studio, where they stretch and work on strength training, flexibility and balance, using equipment such as resistance bands and handweights.

Some walk unassisted, some with canes and some use wheelchairs. There are 10 to 15 present at any given time, said Julie Schafer, manager of healthy living programs, who teaches the class along with Y exercise specialist Seth Kugler.

"We're careful of the temperature because they can get overheated very quickly," Schafer said. …

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