By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Free program for people with mobility disorders
GEM Instructor Kathy Cromwell leads Gertrude Allen and Christy McGuire during the weightlifting portion of their GEM routine.

Team Hinesville Weightlifting, an Olympic weightlifting team that operates in association with Team Savannah Weightlifting and the city of Hinesville, is introducing an exercise program for people with Parkinson's disease and other mobility disorders.

Coach Ryan Burke said the program is free and open to anyone with mobility disorders. The program, called Get Excited and Move (GEM), was created by former Olympian and weightlifting coach Michael Cohen who runs the Anderson Cohen Weightlifting Center in Savannah.

“The program has already had great success in Savannah, so we are quite excited to be offering classes locally,” Burke said.

This past Monday GEM Program Coordinator Kathy Cromwell, held the first 45 minute class attended by several “athletes” from the Hinesville Senior Center.

“We call our clients athletes,” Cromwell said. “We want them to develop that athlete mentality.”

Cromwell was a registered nurse for many years. She met Cohen when she started Olympic weightlifting training with him. She said the GEM program was developed by Cohen after researching an exercise program that was developed for Parkinson’s disease patients.

“That program was primarily boxing moves, it was one dimensional,” Cromwell said adding Cohen designed GEM to be multidimensional and also actively involve brain synapses.

Cohen launched the GEM program in 2016 and Cromwell said it has taken off.

“It’s made a huge impact in Savannah,” she said. “We have it at three different locations in Savannah and we have over 400 clients in Savannah alone.”

Cromwell and Burke met with city officials about implementing the program at the weightlifting center that sits adjacent to the Shuman Center. Once the city gave them the green light Burke met with Chrislene Nelson-Taylor, a former nurse who currently runs the senior center. She rallied up a few people and attended Monday’s class.

Cromwell led the group through a 45 minute routine. It started with a warmup, went directly into weight training using small dumbbells and kettle bells. The group then did some shadow boxing and footwork before moving to the boxing bags where they took turns jabbing and hooking the bag while moving their feet and following Cromwell’s vocal commands to move left or right.

Afterwards they did some agility work weaving and hopping around weight plates placed on the floor. First they did it forwards, then backwards to engage both sides of the brain. During the last portion of the routine they added a vocal component.

“Parkinson’s and some other neurological disorders eventually limit the volume of people’s voices,” Cromwell explained. “As the disease progresses the voice gets lower and softer. So in this program we really encourage people to use their voice. We want them to use their outside voice.”

Cromwell said getting people to move and use their voice are the major components of the program.

“This is fantastic,” Taylor said.

Taylor’s husband Don also attended the class and said he plans to attend again. Taylor said he’s worked in the carpet and flooring industry for several years and it has taken a toll on his joints limiting the range of motion in his arms, legs and knees.

“I like this,” he said.

Cromwell said she believes the program is important, so much so she closed her Cross Fit gym in South Carolina and moved to Savannah to help Cohen expand its reach. She said she looks forward to growing the program here in Hinesville noting it would be beneficial to military personnel, retired military, disabled veterans, stroke patients and dementia patients.

Burke added he is meeting up with folks from the Disabled American Veterans to tell them about the program. He said he also plans to meet with representative from the VA Clinic on Highway 84.

Cromwell said classes are from 2-3 p.m. every Monday and Thursday. She said if the classes grow additional dates will be added.

Sign up for our e-newsletters