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Why Is Boxing Good For Parkinson’s

The Sweet Science Of Boxing And The Brain

Parkinson’s Disease Exercises: Boxing with Strength

Parkinsons destroys brain cells that produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter. In effect, the disease interferes with your brains ability to send signals that direct movement. The result is body tremors, slowness of movement, rigidity, poor balance and coordination. Intense exercise helps prevent the destruction of the brains dopamine-producing cells. A Parkinsons boxing program bobbing, weaving, jabbing, and punching with everything youve got prevents brain damage and strengthens almost all the areas the disease weakens.

Rock Steady Boxing Is Everywhere

Rock Steady Boxing is a non-contact fitness program designed specifically for people with Parkinsons. Founded in 2006, by a young onset patient who wanted to challenge his disease, its origin comes from his personal regimen designed by a boxing trainer.2

Working with a coach on a modified boxing regimen to gain strength and agility, he noticed improvements in his health and a reduction in Parkinsons symptoms. He achieved such individual improvement that he formed a nonprofit to help bring the program to others. Today there are over 450 RSB programs around the world.3

According to RSB, boxers condition for optimal agility, speed, muscular endurance, accuracy, hand-eye coordination, footwork and overall strength to defend against and overcome opponents. At RSB, Parkinsons disease is the opponent. Exercises vary in purpose and form but share one common trait: they are rigorous and intended to empower people with PD to fight back.”

Boxing For Parkinsons: A Total Workout From Head To Toe

Hitting heavy bags builds power and strength. Punching speed bags improves hand-eye coordination and posture. Doing footwork drills improve balance and agility. Tossing medicine balls improves reaction time.

Other intense exercise activities like running on a treadmill or cycling have been shown to slow the progression of Parkinsons. But running on a treadmill or cycling wont do much for your upper body strength, agility, or coordination. And neither have the cool factor going to a boxing class confers.

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Parkinsons Sufferers Shadow Boxing Their Way To Better Health


TRURO, N.S. With AC/DCs Thunderstruck booming in the background, Harold Boone raises his gloves, plants his feet, weaves and bobs a bit and takes a few jabs at the air.

Nearby, Judy Decker is also ducking and weaving as she taps softly at the heavy bag. Between those two, Douglas McDougall is somewhat awkwardly landing short, left and right jabs at a heavy bag from a sitting position, in his wheelchair.

I need to work on my coordination, McDougall says quietly.

Welcome to boxing, Parkinsons style.

Boone, 62, and McDougall 69, have all been dealing with the effects of Parkinsons disease for about 10 years. Decker, 76, was diagnosed four years ago.

Boone recently learned of the benefits boxing movements and exercises provide to Parkinsons sufferers and he worked through the Atlantic chapter of Parkinson Canada in Halifax to coordinate temporary funding for boxing lessons, one hour per week, at Beyond Boxing in Truro with head coach Ted Ash.

Some weeks there may only be two participants some weeks there may be four. But for one hour each Friday afternoon, Ash and a volunteer assistant tape up the hands of the Parkinsons participants, lace on the gloves and gently relay instructions to help provide exercise, motion and toning to restricted muscles.

Sometimes it takes a little more planning to make something work.

Facts About Parkinsons Disease

Amateur boxers throw a punch at Parkinson
  • Parkinsons disease is named after Dr. James Parkinson , the doctor that first identified the condition.
  • Its caused by the loss of brain cells in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra, which produces the chemical messenger dopamine. As the cells die, less dopamine is produced and transported to the area of the brain that coordinates movement. Symptoms develop when about 80 percent of dopamine has been lost.
  • The reason that Parkinsons disease develops is not known.
  • Approximately Four million people worldwide suffer from Parkinsons.
  • The main symptoms of Parkinsons disease are tremor, slowness of movement and muscle stiffness or rigidity.
  • The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence published guidance on the treatment of Parkinsons disease in June 2006.
  • There is no cure for Parkinsons, but treatments can help control the symptoms and maintain quality of life.
  • Parkinsons can be treated with a combination of drug treatments and other therapies: for example, speech therapy, physiotherapy.
  • The risk of developing Parkinsons disease increases with age. Symptoms usually occur after the age of 50.
  • Around one in 20 parkinsons patients are diagnosed under the age of 40.
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    Only Use A Mirror If Youre A Beginner Working On Technique

    Despite its name, when youre shadow boxing, youre not really going to be sparring with a shadow on a wall. Aaron doesnt like to use mirrors for shadow-boxing work either. He wants his boxers to feel a correct punch being thrown, not just see it. With that said, hell sometimes have his beginning boxers stand in front of a mirror while shadow boxing to help them fine-tune their technique.

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    What Is Parkinsons Disease

    Working in the physical therapy field ive seen how the advances in the industry have started to improve the quality of life for people with neurodegenerative disorders including Parkinsons disease. Parkinsons is essentially a movement disorder and until recently the medical community did not understand that people living with this disease could benefit from intense training the same way an athlete can.

    The invention of an exercise program called Rock Steady Boxing that combines muscular endurance, hand eye coordination, and agility training, has proven that people suffering from Parkinsons can regain strength and mobility if they just push through and keep going.

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    Punching Out Parkinsons Symptoms: How Boxing Can Help

    Research indicates that boxing can improve Parkinsons disease symptoms, helping people diagnosed with the disease maintain higher levels of function and quality of life than those who engaged in other forms of exercise.

    Learn more about boxings impact on Parkinsons symptoms, including which workouts are best for seniors with the disease.

    What Is Boxing Exercise Treatment

    Parkinson’s Disease Exercises: Boxing

    Boxing exercise as a physical therapy treatment for Parkinsons disease involves the use of modified, non-contact boxing techniques. Boxing treatment for Parkinsons disease was first pioneered in 2006 at Rock Steady Boxing.

    At Mangiarelli Rehabilitation, boxing exercise treatment involves our physical therapist, Bobby, holding focus mitts as targets and calling out instructions for punching patterns, such as one, two-three-two, four! In that way, the patient knows which boxing pattern to follow to hit the focus mitts, as demonstrated in the video below. Bobby has the patient alternate throwing punches with his left and right hands as well as alternating between low and high punches. Bobby and the patient also move around the clinic to improve gait, step width, and stride length. Physical therapist, Mike, supports the patient with a gait support belt and accompanies the patient as he moves around the clinic for safety of movement.

    Studies have shown that exercise can contribute to increasing dopamine, a chemical Parkinsons patients lose due to the diseases destruction of dopamine-producing cells. Patients who exercise have been shown to perform better on functional tests that assess motor symptoms and non-motor symptoms . One analysis showed that patients who completed multiple-week exercise programs increased their serum levels of BDNF BDNF is brain-derived neurotrophic-factor which helps the neurons that make dopamine survive.

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    Hit Parkinsons Where It Hurts: 3 Benefits Of Boxing Therapy

    Exercise of any kind is helpful to people with Parkinsons disease because it can help improve everything from balance and mobility to an individuals ability to perform the basic activities of daily living . In fact, according to the Parkinsons Foundation, research shows that getting at least two and a half hours of exercise per week is enough to slow the decline in a persons quality of life. Lets take a closer look at three of the biggest benefits of boxing therapy for Parkinsons.

    So Why Boxing For Parkinsons Disease

    Boxing is a phenomenal full body workout that not only strengthens you physically, but also mentally. Which is exactly what a person dealing with Parkinsons needs to fight off the effects of Parkinsons.

    The positives of training boxing to combat Parkinsons Disease

    Here are 8 benefits of training boxing to help treat Parkinsons

    Increase In Strength

    To battle any disease, you have to keep your strength up. Parkinsons is a degenerative disease, so you must keep up your strength. By training boxing a few days a week, you will be getting a full body workout and be noticeably stronger.

    Better Cardio

    Parkinsons zaps your energy, so you need to always be doing cardio. Boxing offers some of the best cardio you can get in a workout. By doing footwork, jump rope, and bag work, youll keep your blood pumping to your brain and keep those neurons firing.

    Improved Posture

    Parkinsons noticeably affects your posture and makes you slouch leading to back pain. In boxing when you learn to keep a stance it improves your posture keeping you upright. Exactly what you need to fight off the effects of Parkinsons.

    Improve Your Cognitive Abilities

    Boxing is not only a physical, but also mental. Youre constantly thinking about your feet placement, where your guards are and what combo to throw next. It keeps your mind sharp and to fight Parkinsons you must always be giving your brain workouts.

    Improve Hand-Eye Coordination

    Improve Reaction Time

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    Put The Support Of Peers In Your Corner

    One of the added benefits of taking boxing classes for Parkinsons is the people youll meet. They understand what youre going through and can be your biggest supporters. As one 71-year-old Rock Steady participant puts it: I no longer feel like the incredible shrinking woman PD seems to be trying to make of me. I feel gritty, tough, very much alive and, to quote Coach Steve, like one badass mofo.

    To learn about boxing classes at Brandon Wilde, and all the other ways we help residents stay fighting fit, check out ourWellness Program.

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    Bt Exercises And Performance Measurements

    Boxing can improve quality of life for those with Parkinson

    On initial evaluation, each participant was screened for details regarding their PD diagnosis, including symptoms, self-reported frequency of falls, other medical conditions and comorbidities, and medications. Each participant was then matched with a trainer, who provided one-on-one assessment and coaching throughout the duration of the program.

    Twice per week, each participant worked with their trainer on specific boxing-related exercises aimed at improving overall coordination, gait, and balance. The program consists of hundreds of exercises/skill sets, broken down into three main phases. Phase one began with mastering a set position, which established basic balance and holding a specific posture, with feet a little farther apart than shoulder width. In phase two, boxing footwork was practiced, wherein forward, side, and backward steps were made with increasing speed, based out of the set position and according to specific landmarks on the floor. The third phase involved mastering a series of punches, both in the air and at a bag, timed to maximize force based on proper balance, posture, and steps. Each phase had to be mastered before starting the next phase. Progress through each of the three phases was tailored to the physical condition of that participant, based on the judgment of their trainer.

  • 1.

    participant was unable to perform the activity at all, even with help

  • 3.

    participant required no assistance

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    Parkinsons Disease Causes And Symptoms

    It is generally accepted that the symptoms of this disease are caused by the lack of dopamine in the brain. Certain brain cells that are responsible for producing this chemical messenger are impaired or die.

    Although research is still needed before knowing more about the clear and root cause of this impairment, there are some factors that may increase the risk of developing this disease. The potential risk factors include genetic mutations, toxins, and head injury. Here is where boxing and this disease share a common field.

    Parkinsons disease symptoms include slow speech, automatic body changes, tremor, rigid muscles, and lack of balance, just to name a few. As the disease progresses, the symptoms get more severe and include even dementia.

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    We Asked Our Experts About The Effects Rock Steady Boxing Has On Parkinsons

    Despite limited clinical evidence, this program is tremendously popular and we get asked about it often. We aimed to find out more about Rock Steady Boxing by talking with two experts on this subject from the APDA community, Dr. Adena Leder and Dr. Terry Ellis. While the two have somewhat different outlooks, there is valuable insight to be gleaned from their unique perspectives.

    Dr. Adena Leder is the Medical Director of the Adele Smithers Parkinsons Center, and Associate Professor, New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine. She is the Medical Director of the Nassau County APDA Information and Referral Center, based at NYIT. Dr. Leder is also a trained Rock Steady Boxing instructor.

    Dr. Terry Ellis is an Associate Professor at Boston University, College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, and Chair of the Department of Physical Therapy & Athletic Training. Dr. Ellis is also the Director of the Center for Neurorehabilitation at Boston University and the Director of the APDA National Rehabilitation Resource Center housed at Boston University.

    We asked Dr. Leder and Dr. Ellis their thoughts on Rock Steady Boxing.

    Q: How Did You First Become Involved In Rock Steady Boxing

    Fight Parkinson’s Disease with…boxing?

    Dr. Leder: I am a movement disorder specialist and I primarily see patients. During my fellowship I became aware of the positive effects that exercise has on the PD population. During many years in private practice, it became apparent that insurance, including Medicare, does not cover enough physical therapy to actually help a PD patient throughout the year. For years I was trying to determine how to deliver an exercise program to the PD population that would be affordable and accessible to all. I first learned about Rock Steady Boxing from a 60 Minutes segment with Leslie Stahl and I knew right away that it was the program I needed to start in my community.

    I became certified as a Rock Steady Boxing expert by taking a three-day course at the Rock Steady Boxing boot camp. When we started the program at NYIT, I personally ran some of the classes. I no longer actually run the classes because I have handpicked fitness professionals who can perform the job better than I can, and I continue to oversee, organize, help and supervise the program. The unique aspect of having the program at the university is that we accept donations and grants and therefore we can offer scholarships to boxers who are unable to pay for the class. No one is turned away for financial reasons.

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    What Our Community Is Saying

    The workouts are interesting, challenging, high tempo and most of all FUN!

    I can say without a doubt that joining this program has changed my life.

    We felt welcomed from our first class. B4H provides a supportive atmosphere and positive environment.

    Ive benefited from increased energy and a renewed sense of hope.

    We also look forward to connecting with our fellow boxers on a social level.

    Thank you

    Read Also: Caring For Someone With Parkinsons

    Boxing Training To Help Fight Parkinsons Disease

    Ten years ago, Burnett Facer was diagnosed with Parkinsons disease. Since then, he has followed his doctors orders, exercised regularly, and tried various ways to slow the progression of the disease.

    Facer says, When I read online about Parkinsons, boxing training kept popping up as a worthwhile treatment with good results. Its a non-drug approach to the neurological problem of Parkinsons disease.

    Putting the Gloves Back On

    Boxing had not typically been of interest to Facer, except for a brief experience as a child. He says, One year, I got boxing gloves for Christmas. There were seven boys in my family and three girls. I had plenty of opponents! But no training whatsoever. No instruction.

    After Facers childhood experience, he might never have picked up a pair of boxing gloves again. But then, at age 64, he began formal boxing trainingthis time, to fight the progression of Parkinsons disease.

    Benefits of Intense Exercise for Parkinsons

    Many articles and videos describe the benefits of boxing programs for Parkinsons disease, such as Rock Steady Boxinga fitness-inspired, non-contact boxing program for people with Parkinsons.

    A Personal Boxing Trainer

    Inspiring Results

    The physical benefits of boxing were evident to both Facer and Shinpaugh.

    Shinpaugh says, I noticed that Burnetts eye-hand coordination improved, and that he no longer shook while boxing. Burnett said that he felt boxing helped slow the progression of Parkinsons.

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    The Link Between Parkinsons And Boxing: Fighting Off Symptoms

    For people with Parkinson’s disease a regimen of jab, cross, and hook may help stave off symptoms. Boxing classes specifically for boxers with Parkinson’s are gaining momentum across the country. But what happens when Parkinson’s and boxing face off in the ring?

    What is Parkinson’s?

    Parkinson’s is a degenerative neurological disorder. It causes your brain to produce less dopamine which makes it harder for your body to coordinate movements and manage emotions according to the National Parkinson’s Foundation. Approximately 60,000 people a year are diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health.

    The disease is characterized by tremors, a shuffling walk, loss of balance, slowed movements, a softened voice, and cognitive changes along with many other symptoms.

    There’s no cure for Parkinson’s and treatments are tailored to manage individual symptoms. However, vigorous exercise may have a protective effect on the brain and help slow the disease’s progression, according to research in the journal Neurology.

    How are Parkinson’s and boxing related?

    Research is limited, but boxers and their caregivers have noticed major improvements in their symptoms. The classes also offer a chance for caregivers to connect and feel supported.

    What’s the class like?

    All classes are non-contact. An instructor wears pads and focus mitts for any sparring exercises, but boxers don’t spar with each other.


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