John Kolaya

In the Ring with John Kolaya

John Kolaya was diagnosed with Parkinson’s six years ago at the age of 63. Seemingly overnight, he was losing motor control. Fortunately, John was serving on the Neuroscience Committee at JFK Medical Center and before long he was sitting before a JFK movement disorder specialist. After a thorough exam and a DaTscan of the dopamine concentrations in his brain, the doctor delivered the knockout blow: He had Parkinson’s disease!

After getting through the initial phases of shock, disbelief, denial and even “blaming” himself for allowing this disease to take over his body, he began to read everything he could get his hands on, in the process learning about how intense exercise could actually slow the disease. John began to ramp up his workout routine — more kayaking, swimming, weight training, spinning, yoga and Pilates. That seemed to keep his symptoms in check, at least for a few years. But the truth was, he was working very stressful 60-hour weeks as a construction manager in New York City and began to get the sinking feeling that his stress was becoming a major counteracting factor.

After three years of this self-imposed fitness regimen, new symptoms began to surface. That’s when he found out about Rock Steady Boxing through his son Tim who had become the chairman of the South Florida Chapter of the Parkinson’s Foundation.

Today, John’s weekly exercise routine consists of four to five RSB training sessions in Garwood, NJ, two RSB coaching sessions in Edison, NJ, two Pilates sessions, two days of 5K training as well as kayaking, swimming and bicycling! Here is an update we received from John just a few weeks ago: 

Today I had my overdue check up with my movement disorder specialist at JFK medical center.  He was aware that I had stopped taking my PD meds six weeks ago, because I was feeling so good from my forced intense exercise, namely Rock Steady Boxing.

I am pleased to report that I have improved quite significantly from my November 2016 examination, which was conducted just prior to my increased focus on Rock Steady Boxing. To give the examination perspective, the worst score you can receive is 108 and the very best score is zero. My score in November 2016 was a 36. Today, I received just two points off on my physical exam and seven points off for symptoms that I verbally told him about, but were not apparent during the exam for a total score of nine! 

The doctor was astonished that my symptoms have receded this much from my rigorous exercise regimen. He indicated that he had never seen such improvement in a PD patient in all his years. When I asked him what I should do differently, he quickly said NOTHING. He said, keep doing what you’re doing now and keep me informed if there are any changes. He went as far as suggesting that I should be the poster child for RSB and is looking into doing a repeat DaTscan to see how this reversal has been impacted by my dopamine levels.