Some people with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) have discovered an alternate form of therapy to improve their symptoms—boxing! Not the Ali or Tyson type of boxing—we’re talking about fitness boxing.
Though not a cure for Parkinson’s, non-combat fitness boxing is being recognized by many in the medical community as an alternate form of rehabilitation for the disease. According to a case report by the American Physical Therapy Association, patients showed short-term and long-term improvements in balance, gait, activities of daily living, and quality of life after participating in a fitness boxing training program. As a result, many people with varying stages of PD are looking to
fitness boxing as a means to improve their quality of life while living with the disease.
According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, PD is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects approximately one million Americans. The disease is characterized most notably by tremors, stiffness, softening or slurring of speech, slowing of movement, and instability.
The theory behind boxing as a form of therapy for PD began when Scott C. Newman, a former Indianapolis attorney, was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease at the age of 40. A few years after his diagnosis, Newman began intense, one-on-one, non-contact boxing workouts at the suggestion of a friend.
“After six weeks of intense boxing training, I could sign my name again. I was getting better,” Newman said during an interview in a December 2016 segment of HBO’s “The Fight Game with Jim Lampley.”
Newman says he experienced dramatic improvement in his physical health, agility, and daily functioning from his workout routine and, ultimately, his quality of life improved.
After experiencing his own positive results, Newman opened the first non-contact boxing gym in 2006 in his home town of Indianapolis, IN, that offered a workout program dedicated to people with PD.
Classes are separated into four levels depending on the patient’s stage of PD. Patients share a common denominator inside of a supportive environment, which allows them to work on strength, balance and hand/eye coordination. A combination of classic boxing moves and exercises choreographed to music is used.
To help combat the vocal challenges often faced by PD patients, fighters are encouraged to count out exercises aloud with the instructor. The louder they count the better. Cheering and yelling is also encouraged, not only to improve voice activation, but to boost morale and lessen the symptoms of depression and anxiety, two symptoms commonly associated with PD.
Nationwide, thousands of PD patients have been introduced to fitness boxing as an option to assist them with managing their disease. Medical experts acknowledge that fitness boxing may not be for everyone and before considering a new exercise regimen, it is best to check with your physician.
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