Boxing and Parkinson’s Disease
We know without a doubt that exercise is important for people with Parkinson’s disease (PD). Various types of exercise and movement can help people improve their balance, strength, mobility, flexibility, endurance and walking ability. Studies also reveal that exercise can help improve cognition, depression, fatigue, and sleep. We have discussed exercise in previous blogs and go into great detail in our Be Active & Beyond exercise guide. We’ve also shared tips for exercising safely while at home during the pandemic. We often get questions about boxing as exercise for people with PD – especially about Rock Steady Boxing, a specific type of boxing class for people with PD that is offered around the country. For today’s blog we’ll share a bit more info about Rock Steady Boxing and get input from two experts on the topic so you can decide if this type of class is right for you. Note: Not every boxing-style class designed for people with PD is a Rock Steady Boxing class. There are some independently-run classes that are not affiliated with Rock Steady. For the purpose of this blog, we are specifically discussing the Rock Steady Boxing program.
What is Rock Steady Boxing?
Rock Steady Boxing is a boxing program designed for people with PD, based on exercises that are adapted from the world of boxing that emphasize agility, speed, endurance, accuracy, hand-eye coordination, footwork and strength. The exercises are meant to be vigorous and to push the participants beyond what they perceive they are capable of performing. Various levels of training have been developed to meet the needs of people with PD at different stages of the disease. Started at a gym in Indiana in 2006, Rock Steady Boxing developed a system to train fitness instructors across the country and now operates out of more than 870 affiliate locations worldwide. Those interested (personal trainers, physical therapists, boxing coaches, long term care facility staff, etc.) undergo a two-part Affiliate Training Camp — an online course, followed by an interactive in-person or virtual-based hands-on training. Trained personnel can then set up an affiliate Rock Steady Boxing program.
Rock Steady Boxing in the medical literature
Although there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that promotes Rock Steady Boxing, there have only been two small trials that sought to examine the clinical benefits of Rock Steady Boxing. In one study, 31 people with PD were assigned to either a boxing exercise training or traditional exercise for 24-36 sessions, each lasting 90 minutes over 12 weeks. Participants were tested before and after completion of training on measures of balance, balance confidence, mobility, gait velocity, gait endurance, and quality of life. Although the researchers state that their original hypothesis was that boxing would lead to greater improvements than traditional exercise, the study did not bear that out. Both groups demonstrated gains on multiple measures. No outcome measure demonstrated a significant difference between groups except for balance confidence which favored the traditional exercise group. Despite the fact that boxing was not shown to be better than traditional
Boxing and Parkinson’s Disease