Is a Parkinson’s Boxing Program Right for Me?
While boxing has a reputation for being a difficult sport, it can actually be very beneficial for those dealing with a central nervous system disorder. Boxing programs for people with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) offer physical and psychological benefits. It’s important to realize that Parkinson’s boxing programs are non-contact; nobody is actually punching anybody else. It’s more about the boxing drills used in training that are known to enhance strength, agility, balance, and confidence.
Continue reading to learn about the benefits of boxing training for people living with PD and whether or not this type of therapy might fit in well with your lifestyle. Hint: It most likely will!
Parkinson’s Disease Defined
Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disease that causes people to have problems with balance and movement. More specifically, PD occurs when nerve cells inside the brain that produce a chemical called dopamine begin to die off in an area of the brain known as the substantia nigra.
Dopamine is the “feel-good” chemical in the brain because it is associated with movement and memory as well as pleasurable actions and rewards.
According to WebMD, “Dopamine plays a role in how we feel pleasure. It’s a big part of our uniquely human ability to think and plan. It helps us strive, focus, and find things interesting.”
The primary symptoms associated with Parkinson’s include:
- Stiff, rigid muscles
- Problems with balance
- Slow movement (bradykinesia)
However, there are also psychological factors to consider because people living with Parkinson’s commonly either do not feel capable of participating in community events because of disease progression.
Of course, over time, this can lead to negative experiences, including a sedentary lifestyle, isolation, and a lack of socialization that everybody needs to maintain basic happiness.
How Rock Steady Boxing Helps People with Parkinson’s
So, how did it come to be that boxing training is used to improve the symptoms commonly associated with Parkinson’s Disease? It goes back to 2006, right after Scott Newman was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s at the age of 40. He wasn’t ready to accept disability and decided to fight back!
He began taking boxing training lessons with his personal trainer and found that his strength, balance, and overall agility significantly and quickly improved. Soon, he launched Rock Steady Boxing to help others enjoy similar benefits.
Since then, RSB has become a thriving nonprofit organization that has helped thousands of people worldwide. In fact, today, there are 871 worldwide Rock Steady Boxing programs. And while it may seem ironic that boxing training is so effective for improving Parkinson’s symptoms, a growing body of anecdotal evidence seems to suggest the same.
Exercises Involved with Parkinson’s Boxing Training
According to Healthline, “Parkinson’s boxing classes typically range from 30 to 90 minutes. Classes typically include exercises that help you improve hand-eye coordination, agility, speed, endurance, and strength.”
Rock Steady Boxing classes for PD may include:
- Jumping rope
- Punching heavy bags and speed bags
- Walking, squatting, hopping, and crawling
- Improving ring work, footwork, and other agility exercises
- Vocal exercises to enhance verbal ability and self-confidence
- High-intensity calisthenics and circuit training to increase core strength
- Gentle stretching and warming up the muscles before beginning training sessions
You won’t need any previous boxing experience to join a Rock Steady Boxing class, and people of all ages and levels of ability are definitely encouraged to participate.
Each person gets a specifically designed exercise program that caters to their unique capabilities and goals. Boxing training can be as gentle or as tough as the individual desires and can safely withstand.
Benefits of Rock Steady Boxing Program
Boxing is one form of high-intensity training (HIT), which is associated with the potential to improve symptomology in people with various chronic diseases. Early research suggests that routine boxing training can help people living with Parkinson’s Disease to improve:
- Quality of life
- Range of motion
Precautions Before Beginning Boxing Classes for Parkinson’s
If you think boxing training can help you better manage your Parkinson’s symptoms, and you’re excited about beginning classes, contact a location near you to watch a class and begin the process. Rock Steady Boxing recommends that anyone interested in participating in training sessions visit their doctor first to obtain a release form, which is a little different than just starting a traditional exercise group.
Please contact your medical team to gain authorization prior to participation in physical activity at RSB.
You’ll have the joy of enhancing your physical health while also making new friends and socializing to enhance your psychological well-being. For many people with Parkinson’s, the community aspect of boxing training is the most valuable.