Physical therapist Nate Coomer discusses what led him to start in-house and online fitness classes for people with Parkinson’s, and how his unique business model sustains itself.
Physical therapist (PT) Nate Coomer was first drawn to the Parkinson’s community when he and his wife, Erin – also a PT – moved to Seattle a little under a decade ago.
“The research was so strong that physical therapy and exercise can really help slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease,” he said. “I felt like I had an important role in the lifespan of people with PD and wanted to be a part of their care team.”
The Coomers took ownership of an old CrossFit gym and converted it into a physical therapy practice, with Erin treating her clientele of runners and Nate treating his clientele of Parkinson’s patients.
“We wanted a big, open space with gym equipment, where she could see her runners and I could see people with Parkinson’s. They could mix together in an environment where nobody has to know who has Parkinson’s and who doesn’t,” Coomer said.
“This way, they can all feel like athletes, and both groups benefit from seeing how hard each of them works at their goals.”
Thus began The Parkinson’s Fitness Project.
“We wanted energy, laughter, comradery and for people to feel like they were part of something bigger. This wouldn’t be just another medical appointment on their calendar slot to feel discouraged by,” Coomer said.
His business model of providing formal physical therapy along with group and private neurofitness classes five days a week at a sliding scale of $15 per class proved successful. The company moved into its third location in March.
Daily Dose PD
Coomer was thrilled to learn that Parkinson’s Fitness Project was making a difference in the lives of so many people across the greater Seattle area. Then he realized, “Not everyone can make it to one more medical appointment that week. But they know how important it is to exercise.”
Our mission was to give people avenues to work out that are as convenient as possible. We have classes throughout Seattle and a wellness program with personal training in our clinics. But not everyone can make it to one more appointment that week, and yet they still know exercise is important.
Thus began Daily Dose PD, an online training program that offers a daily dose of exercise for people living with PD at all fitness levels.
“It started out just me taping videos with a camcorder. I wanted to release new workout videos that would challenge people and threw them into an online catalog or library. I wanted to give my patients as many exercise options as they wanted and for them to be able to use that whenever they felt like it.”
Today, Daily Dose PD helps more than 200 people in eight different countries – and almost all 50 states – to work out with trusted, certified and experienced trainers like Coomer.
“It’s been really great to meet new people in our live streams, connect with them and hopefully give them some guidance and be able to slow the progression of their disease, even if they don’t have quality resources in their area to do so,” he said.
Potential subscribers have access to all Daily Dose PD videos, with more than 400 workouts cataloged that they can use for 30 days for free. Going forward, it’s around a dollar a day or $29 per month.
“The whole idea is that the money they are paying into the service goes back into the service. This way, we’ve been able to create a much more interactive and user-friendly platform that allows for mobile apps and branded smart TV apps.”
“We’ve also been able to bring in more instructors so that it’s not just me in all the videos. And we’ve gone from one workout a week to roughly four livestreaming videos a week – all by taking those funds and putting them back into the program.”
Connecting with BGF
When Coomer started Parkinson’s Fitness Project, he wanted to connect with others around the country who were passionate about treating the symptoms of PD through exercise – and that’s ultimately what led him to the Brian Grant Foundation.
“I completed BGF’s Exercise for Parkinson’s Training for Professionals, and our original facility up here in Seattle began hosting bootcamp trainings,” Coomer said.
“Currently, we provide BGF’s ‘Move of the Month’ video series that helps people understand how to make exercise more Parkinson’s specific. We plan to do some educational videos to help fitness professionals better understand how certain exercise can be helpful for people with PD and provide them with techniques they can implement into their classes and training sessions. It’s been a great partnership.”
Coomer shared some advice for other physical therapists and fitness professionals serving the Parkinson’s community.
“Don’t focus on how many people you can get in class or how popular the class is. It’s more about quality vs. quantity. When you put out a quality product that people know is research based, it slowly builds into something consistent and sustainable,” he said.